Big Tobacco Lies to Montana about I-185*

Tobacco corporations worried about their bottom line are backing the opposition to I-185.  

Montanans shouldn’t be surprised that Big Tobacco is lying to protect their profits. This is an industry with a long history of lying to the American People. You can learn more about that history at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.   

AARP MT, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Montana Hospital Association, the Montana Medical Association, and the Montana Primary Care Association have all endorsed I-185 because they know the truth:  The real harm to Montana taxpayers is the cost created by tobacco corporations and their deadly products.  

Right now, tobacco-related diseases cost Medicaid over $81 million each year. Without I-185, all Montana taxpayers will continue to pay that tab. Vote YES on I-185 to ask that tobacco corporations and smokers pay their fair share. If you don’t use tobacco, you won’t pay.

The truth is that thousands of veterans, low-income parents, and low-wage workers are already covered by Medicaid. Without I-185, they are scheduled to lose that coverage in 2019.

Big Tobacco’s LIE: “185 is a massive new tax increase that deceptively claims to fund Medicaid expansion but doesn’t provide enough new revenues to pay for it.”


The Truth: I-185 raises the tobacco tax by $2 per pack and protects 100,000 Montanans from losing their Medicaid coverage.  If you don’t smoke, you don’t pay.


The fiscal note created by the Office of Budget and Program Planning (OBPP) projects that Medicaid expansion will continue to pay for itself through state savings and the funds designated in I-185. When considering the ongoing cost-savings associated with Medicaid expansion and the premium income generated by the program, the state expects that the new tobacco tax revenue will fully cover the costs of the program. That means I-185 would prevent nearly 100,000 Montanans from losing Medicaid coverage, which includes thousands of Montana veterans and their families who have sacrificed for us and are now eligible for Medicaid.

Source: Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning, “Fiscal Note for 2018 Ballot Initiative.”

The Truth: Today, all Montanans are paying for the healthcare costs associated with Big Tobacco’s deadly products.

Tobacco use costs Montanans $440 million dollars a year in health care costs. Every Montana household now pays nearly $779 extra in taxes annually to help cover the cost of smoking. In addition, smoking costs Montana businesses $368.9 million annually in lost productivity.

Source: Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids,

Big Tobacco’s LIE: The truth is it doesn’t fund Medicare for seniors or address traditional Medicaid.”


The Truth: I-185 funds traditional Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, and health services to help seniors stay in their home. That is why AARP Montana is a strong supporter of I-185.


Hundreds of Montana seniors and individuals with disabilities sit on the state’s waitlist for Medicaid services that would allow them to live in their homes with dignity. I-185 dedicates a portion of the new revenue to expand home- and community-based services to seniors to allow them to live independently in their home. In addition, nearly one in four (23%) of Medicaid expansion enrollees are aging Montanans, ages 50-64, and not yet eligible for Medicare. The state does not fund Medicare.

Source: Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning, “Fiscal Note for 2018 Ballot Initiative.”

Big Tobacco’s LIE: “It creates a permanent appropriation and raises new funds but sends more than half to the general fund existing programs…”


The Truth: I-185 dedicates over 85% of the new revenue to fund new and continued health services, including Medicaid, services for veterans, and seniors.

I-185 creates new state accounts to ensure funds are used for Medicaid and health services. Based on the formula, the vast majority (87%) of new revenue is dedicated to funding new and continuing health and Medicaid services. The formula in I-185 dedicates 72% of funds for Medicaid expansion, programs to help smokers quit, and health services for veterans and seniors. Based on the formula, more than half of the remaining 28% also goes toward health services, through the existing Medicaid and Veteran services accounts. I-185 makes it clear that funds must be used for the health services listed in initiative, and the legislature cannot use the funds to supplant funding for similar services already provided. 

Below is the breakout, based on the formula:

Account/Service Percentage of New Revenue, based on formula within I-185
HELP Act 52%
Veteran services 4%
Home and Community-Based Services 10%
Smoking Cessation 6%
Veteran Homes (existing account) 2.3%
Medicaid and Health Services (existing account) 12.3%
Long-range Building (existing account) 0.7%
General Fund (existing account) 12.6%


Source: Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning, “Fiscal Note for 2018 Ballot Initiative.”

Big Tobacco’s LIE:185 [creates a] permanent unfunded mandate of $34 million dollars a year that you’ll have to pay for with even higher taxes or less services.”


The Truth: I-185 fully funds Medicaid expansion, preventing the loss of coverage for nearly 100,000 Montanans.


The Truth: Medicaid expansion has saved the state money, and factoring in these savings moving forward and the new revenue from I-185, Medicaid expansion is fully paid for. While there is a slight net cost in the outyears, the new revenue from I-185, including funds dedicated to the general fund, more than pay for the costs.

Source: Source: Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning, “Fiscal Note for 2018 Ballot Initiative.”

The Truth: The highly respected economists at BBER (Bureau of Business and Economic Research) have also weighed in on Medicaid expansion’s “substantial effect on Montana’s economy.” In their report from April 2018, “Medicaid expansion will introduce approximately $350 million to $400 million of new spending to Montana’s economy each year. This spending ripples through Montana’s economy.” In 2017, Medicaid expansion generated approximately 5,000 jobs and over $240 million in personal income. BBER states, “In addition to generating economic activity, Medicaid expansion appears to improve outcomes for Montanans—reducing crime, improving health, and lowering debt. While the state pays a nominal amount for these benefits, the costs to the state budget are more than offset by the savings created by Medicaid expansion and by the revenues associated with increased economic activity.”

Source: University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research,” The economic impact of Medicaid expansion in Montana.”

The Truth: Nothing in I-185 keeps politicians in Helena from doing their jobs and re-evaluating the state’s budgetary needs, but bad budgeting at our state capitol has already resulted in hundreds of millions in cuts to Medicaid, mental health services, and K-12 education. Last year, the legislature rejected a tobacco tax increase even though it was supported by 77% of Montana voters.  

Sources: Montana Budget and Policy Center, “Budget Cuts Devastate Health and Human Services.” Executive Summary: Montana Voters and Tobacco Policy, Memo to Kristin Paige-Nei, from Kelly Middendorff, Moore Information, Inc., March 21, 2017.