Montana Lawmakers Consider Changes to Gas Tax Spending

Proposal would use revenues from the state gasoline tax to boost funding for off-highway projects

By Associated Press

HELENA – A Montana lawmakers’ panel is considering proposals to use revenues from the state gasoline tax to boost funding for off-highway projects.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that the Environmental Quality Council is weighing whether to introduce two bills during the 2019 legislative session. The panel discussed the proposals Tuesday and Wednesday and will take them up again in July.

Lawmakers in 2017 approved legislation that raised the gasoline tax to generate an extra $30 million annually to pay for roads and bridges and support local roads projects.

The off-road proposals would siphon small percentages of gas tax revenue to increase off-highway vehicle project funding from $180,000 to $617,000 annually. Snowmobile trails would receive $1.2 million a year, compared to the current $775,000.

Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, said the proposed changes would benefit Montana’s $7 billion outdoor recreation industry.

Both the director of the state’s transportation department and the backers of the tax hike said the issue should have been addressed during debate in 2017.

Transportation Director Mike Tooley warned the draft legislation could jeopardize federal matching funds for highway projects. Darryl James, executive director of the Montana Infrastructure Coalition, suggested off-road investment could be funded by raising hunting and fishing license fees.

Lawmakers in 2017 approved legislation that raised the gasoline tax from 27 cents a gallon to 31.5 cents, with eventual increases to 33 cents. The diesel tax went from 27 cents per gallon to 29.25. The hikes were designed to generate an extra $30 million annually to pay for roads and bridges and to support local roads projects.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.