Remember growing up as a kid and your parents gave you a dollar a week for allowance? But there was always one sibling who spent their dollar on Monday and then begged for money from your piggy bank every day for the rest of the week? Our state government is operating in much the same way – spending down their budget and then asking the Montana taxpayer for more.
When the legislature left town in 2015, we had formulated a budget with a $455 million surplus. Today, it has dwindled to $79 million. In addition, state government has added 1,200 state employees with wages and benefits to the balance sheet. After a year of campaigning on the platform of “no new taxes,” Gov. Steve Bullock proposed that we pay for his new programs by begging Montanans to hand over more of their hard-earned money.
This week House Bill 473, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, House District 7, will be introduced in committee. This bill is a tax increase that is wrapped in needed projects but puts one more tax brick on the back of the Montana taxpayer. The problem is that our state government has overspent and now is looking for a tax increase to balance the checkbook. The governor proposed many tax increases in his budget and now this bill will dig into your wallet for even more of your cash when you pull into the gas station to fill up. It is time we put our foot down.
We as taxpayers cannot have the past irresponsible spending behavior in Helena encouraged by a gas tax bailout. Raising the gas tax hurts us all, but especially those on a tight income. Currently Montana has the 26th highest gas tax in the nation, and if HB 473 were to pass we would have the 11th highest. This is a tax that will never go away; it is a “forever tax.” It would hurt the general public and low income while encouraging more state government spending, not the direction we as a state need to be going.
Montana infrastructure is very important and the fight for the needed dollars is currently underway. Just last week, House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Carl Glimm made the cuts possible to fund infrastructure staying within budget, as reported by KVGO’s Peter Christian, “Glimm said the committee was able to pare down the budget of the Department of Transportation, as well as find funds from other sources, without raising taxes."
We believe our state can fund infrastructure and not raise taxes. We can address the real needs of our state roads, water and sewer systems within our current budget. This tax increase sounds just like the sibling who spent the allowance dollar on Monday and is now wanting more of your money. We encourage you to write, email, call your legislator and urge them to vote no on HB 473, the “forever gas tax.”
This opinion is signed by the following Republican state legislators: Rep. Matt Reiger, House District 4; Rep. Bill Harris, HD 37, Rep. Dennis Lenz, HD 53; Rep. Derek Skees, HD 11; Rep. Mark Noland, HD 10; Rep. Carl Glimm, HD 6; Sen Dee Brown, Senate District 2; Sen. Dave Howard, SD 29; Sen. Keith Regier, SD 3; Sen. Al Olszewski, SD 6; and Sen. Bob Keenen, SD 5.