Supco upholds ballot language in Charter tax case

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has cleared the way for Charter Communications to resume signature gathering for a ballot initiative to lower its tax rate.

The state high court on Tuesday rejected a challenge from a teachers and government workers union that argued the language of the initiative didn't meet legal standards.

With Initiative 172 , Charter is asking voters to reduce the property tax rate for cable television systems, thus reversing a 2009 decision by the Department of Revenue that increased the tax rates for companies that bundled services of television, phone and high-speed Internet.

Charter needs the signatures of nearly 25,000 registered voters by June 20 to get the item on the November ballot.

MEA-MFT had argued in court that the ballot statement didn't properly inform voters that the company was seeking a lower tax rate, and only said the company was seeking to change the property rates for the video portion of bundled services.

The Supreme Court found that full text of the initiative points to a lowering of the tax rate.

The MEA-MFT also unsuccessfully challenged whether the initiative illegally seeks to appropriate money. The court said it has ruled in several cases that the attorney general is not authorized to withhold a proposed ballot measure that may face a constitutional challenge.

The court said it was not expressing an opinion on whether a constitutional challenge would be appropriate if the initiative qualified for the ballot.

MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver told Lee Newspapers of Montana that if the initiative qualifies for the ballot, the union will return to court for a judicial review.

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