Schweitzer rejects call for special session
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Gov. Brian Schweitzer has rejected a request from a Realtor's group that he call a special legislative session to address some large property tax increases based on the latest reappraisal. The Northwest Montana Association of Realtors sent a letter to Schweitzer on Monday. It was written by the group's government affairs director, John Sinrud, a former Republican legislator from Bozeman who made the letter public Wednesday. Sinrud's letter said many businesses and home owners are shocked by large tax increases. "Some property owners may be forced out of their homes due to the unreasonable and unfounded increases in their property values which could result in paying excessively higher taxes," Sinrud wrote. The letter disCussed House Bill 658, which the Legislature passed to mitigate the financial impact of reappraisal on many properties. The correspondence charges that recent data from the Legislative Finance Committee shows 11 counties have higher than expected residential property values and 42 counties have higher than expected commercial property values. The association asked Schweitzer and the Legislature to work together and hold a special session before the end of the year to develop a temporary solution and then establish a committee to find a more permanent solution. But Schweitzer said it doesn't make sense to spend $80,000 a day to call a special session with the same lawmakers who passed HB658. Schweitzer said the bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Jopek, D-Whitefish, was rewritten by Senate Republicans and passed despite Jopek's objections. The governor said his administration didn't support the rewritten bill and warned of its consequences. Schweitzer said he received the final version of the revised bill two days after lawmakers adjourned, so he could not have issued an amendatory veto. He let the bill become law without signing it. "Meanwhile, the Legislature will be meeting again in 14 months," Schweitzer said Wednesday. "Maybe the best solution is for the voters to find new legislators who will listen to people like Mike Jopek and the Department of Revenue." In September, Schweitzer rejected a demand by Republican legislative leaders for a special session to address the property value increases and resulting higher property taxes for commercial or small-business property owners.