MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer
HELENA Democrats are trying to resurrect bills that aim to crack down on outof- state tax cheats, measures shelved by House Republicans. Senate Democrats said Thursday that they will move the bills through the chamber they control rather than try to fight with a House committee controlled by Republicans. Even though the measures will eventually end up in the GOP-controlled House again, after they clear the Senate, Democrats said they think the additional debate will sway GOP minds. “I honestly don’t believe they will let this languish,” said Senate President Mike Cooney, D-Helena. Last week, a trio of bills aimed at getting nonresidents to pay their income taxes by closing loopholes and improving enforcement efforts were tabled by House Republicans. Republicans fought back a move on Thursday by Democrats to force the bills to the House floor. The vote along party lines shows the acrimony developing over the issue. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is seeking the measures as a way of increasing state revenue by getting people to pay taxes they legally owe, has criticized Republicans for blocking the bills. The Department of Revenue has estimated it would collect an extra $60 million in the upcoming budget period. The Department of Revenue said taxes from nonresidents are either slipping through the cracks, or are being ignored by out-of-staters because they agency doesn’t have the power to pursue them across the state border. Critics said the Department of Revenue is only speculating that some of the legislation would work. They also argue they don’t trust the tax collection agency to use the new powers like its administrators say it will. This is Schweitzer’s second attempt at ramping up tax enforcement efforts against nonresidents. Similar measures failed in 2005. The package of bills would tighten up tax law dealing with “grantor trusts,” allow the Department of Revenue to hire out-of-state debt collectors, and make sure nonresidents pay withholding taxes when selling property. The tax agency says residents properly pay taxes 97 percent of the time, while nonresidents making money in the state only do so about 25 percent of the time.