On Sept. 18, during the Kalispell Chamber of Commerceís monthly Board of Directors meeting, the organizationís leadership voted to support of I-185, oppose I-186, and review support for the 6-Mill Levy, which they voted to support in March of this year.
The 6-Mill Levy has been in effect in Montana since 1948 and is a funding source that continues to directly benefit Montana universities and colleges. The Kalispell Chamber Board of Directors believes the levy is good for the welfare of all Montana communities as it keeps education affordable, which helps establish a skilled workforce for the state. The 6-Mill Levy comes up for renewal every ten years, and the Kalispell Chamber advocated in support of the levy in both 2008 and 1998.
The Kalispell Chamber Board of Directors also voted to support I-185. If passed by voters, I-185 would increase the tax on cigarettes by $2.00 per pack, from $1.70 to $3.70, and provide a parallel increase on taxes applied to all other tobacco products, which would also increase e-cigarettes, vaping products, and other electronic smoking items not currently taxed. The funds from the tax increase would help fund Montanaís Medicaid expansion, and also support programs such as smoking cessation and prevention, long-term care for seniors and individuals with disabilities, suicide prevention counseling for Montana veterans, and the Montana Veteransí Home.
After a lengthy discussion following over an hour of presentations from individuals representing both sides of the initiative, the Kalispell Chamber Board of Directors felt that supporting I-185 would continue to positively influence the livelihood of over 100,000 Montanans, approximately 18 percent of which are located in Northwest Montana. Additionally, the Board felt that by supporting I-185, the Chamber would be taking a step forward in helping create a healthier Montana, which in turn, helps foster a healthy, more productive workforce, and efficient economy.
Finally, the Kalispell Chamberís Board of Directors voted in opposition of I-186, which would require the Department of Environmental Quality to deny any new permit for any new hardrock mines in Montana unless the reclamation plan provides clear and convincing evidence that the mine will not require perpetual treatment of water polluted by acid mine drainage or other contaminants. The Board felt I-186 is duplicative and unnecessary and will hurt Montana taxpayers and our economy.
ó Kate Lufkin is marketing manager with the Kalispell Chamber