Liberal Democrat Mike Cooney can try to run from his support for a statewide sales tax in Montana but he certainly can’t hide, and his spin is getting exposed by the experts for exactly what it is: misleading campaign rhetoric from a career politician.
In his 44-year-long political career, Cooney has established himself as the tax king of Montana, supporting over $850 million individual tax and fee increases, from taxes on everything from water and cars to hospitals and nursing homes. And despite his attempts to hoodwink the people of Big Sky Country, Cooney’s record shows he supported a statewide sales tax. Not only did Cooney indicate he was open to a sales tax in 2002, he tried to become the father of a Montana sales tax when he requested draft legislation for a 4% tax in 2004.
In the most recent episode of Campaign Beat on Montana Public Radio, top reporters and political analysts took Cooney to task for misleading voters about his clear past support of a sales tax: Sally Mauk, Senior News Analyst, Montana Public Radio: “But Cooney says he only requested a sales tax bill, which he never introduced because he wanted to ‘research the impact of such a tax.’ And that doesn't pass my smell test. He didn't need to draft a bill to get that information, for one thing.”
Rob Saldin, Professor Of Political Sciences, University Of Montana: “I think it looks pretty bad. So this played out over several months back in 2004 and 2005. And Cooney had a sales tax bill drafted when he was in the Legislature. Now he's claiming that he only had the bill drafted as a way to get a revenue note, which is an analysis from the Department of Revenue. And he wanted to see the implications of a sales tax that was in a Republican bill. But that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Just for starters, he's saying that he's always been against a sales tax. Well, if that's true, why would you request a bill draft for something you're adamantly opposed to? He says that he was just trying to get more information about a Republican bill, but he could have gotten that information from other sources. He could have looked at the revenue note on the Republican bill, for instance, or he could have just requested it without drafting a bill. So it seems pretty odd that you'd decide to go through the laborious process of drafting a bill in an attempt to get that information. But the other oddity here is that the analysis he was seeking typically isn't done until after the bill is introduced. So if you draft a bill and don't introduce it, you don't get the analysis that supposedly motivated the draft in the first place. So that all seems strange. The other explanation here that we could imagine is that Cooney, you know, at the very least, toyed with the idea of a sales tax…”