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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Montana to Tax Big Box Stores

Finally, a state dealing with the problems caused by Wal-Mart and their ilk. In a piece over at CNN Money titled Montana to levy tax on Wal-Mart?, they write
A bill up for debate Tuesday calls for taxing retailers like Wal-Mart (Research), Target (Research) and Costco (Research) for each store with more than $20 million in sales.

State Sen. Ken Toole, D-Helena, the bill's sponsor, says Montana residents are tired of subsidizing big-box stores whose low prices -- and high profits -- depend on paying workers low wages.

"When you don't pay workers, they get public assistance," he said. "Guess who pays for that?"...

...Foes of the legislation say it discriminates against high-volume merchants. "It's not the government's job to pick winners or losers in a competitive marketplace," said Wal-Mart spokesman Nate Hurst.

Although Toole didn't know how much the state was paying to provide services to Wal-Mart workers, he pointed to a study released last February by Rep. George Miller that concluded taxpayers pay about $421,000 a year for every Wal-Mart store with 200 employees.

Wal-Mart's Hurst said the discount chain pumped millions into the Montana economy last year and bought more than $39 million in goods and services from local suppliers.

University of Montana economist Thomas Power said claims by retailers that they would have to scale back operations or raise prices are exaggerated. "Big-box stores are fighting to get into these markets," he said.

The proposed tax met mixed reviews from shoppers at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Missoula, a city of about 60,000 in western Montana. "If prices have to go up, so be it," said Mary Karen Caraway. "These stores should be taking responsibility for their own employees."


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