The mayor and city council of Harlowton are asking state lawmakers to increase Montana’s fuel tax.
Earlier this month, Montana’s Department of Transportation said they’ll have to delay almost $150 million worth of road projects across the state due to a budget shortfall.
Harlowton Mayor Jeff Sell says a 10-cent-per gallon tax increase on gasoline and diesel is the easiest way to fill the budget gap:
"Nobody wants to be the bad guy and raise taxes, but they need to understand that there a lot of taxpayers out there that believe the infrastructure projects need to get done even if we have to pay for it with a tax increase," Sell says.
Montana’s gas tax is currently just under 28 cents a gallon. Revenue it brings in is then matched by federal dollars to pay for road construction and maintenance.
Sell, an independent, says the money funds local roads, and is vital to his town’s budget.
Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, a Republican from Stevensville, says his party might consider a fuel tax increase. But first Thomas says he’d like to see Democratic Governor Steve Bullock propose alternative long-term funding solutions for the Department of Transportation:
"We will consider anything that’s viable" Thomas says. "Certainly we are more interested in fixing this without a tax increase if that’s possible to do that."
Montana has not raised its fuel tax since 1994.
On Tuesday in Butte, Governor Bullock is scheduled to talk about investing nearly $300 million in infrastructure, and using the state’s coal tax trust fund to pay for the state’s long-term building needs.