With estimated shortfalls in the state highway fund, the Montana Contractors Association and other special interest groups are pushing for a 38 percent increase in the gas tax.
Recently MTN reported that Governor Steve Bullock’s administration has spent $75 Million more than the fund has brought in since fiscal 2012. And now the balance has dipped below the level where it can pay the costs of government construction projects. Late last month Bullock administration officials announced they were delaying more than $144 million in new projects because of the projected deficit.
Republican leaders in the Senate have suggested reallocating money from Governor Bullock’s proposed pre-k program to make up for the shortfall. Mr. Bullock’s proposed fix is cutting the state’s highway construction budget and the Highway patrol.
“General Fund spending is up around $800 million since 2011. Governor Bullock has a spending problem not a revenue problem,” said Brent Meade, Executive Director of the Montana Policy Institute. “ During the debate on Medicaid expansion, Montana Policy Institute pointed out the very real issue that spending more on a new entitlement for able-bodied adults would crowd out spending for core areas of government; roads, public safety, and schools. Here we are with a budget that cuts 24 highway patrol officers and a call to halt infrastructure projects, but spends $70 million on Medicaid expansion. The problem of ballooning entitlement programs will get worse in future years without major reform and we can expect more funding cuts to critical projects.”
Meanwhile, the Montana Contractors Association and a collection of special interest groups are proposing 38 percent increase in the gas tax rather than either option from Mr. Bullock or Republican leaders. Bullock’s budget director Dan Villa has expressed that the administration is open to discussing raising the gas tax.
During his recent re-election campaign, Governor Bullock made no mention of his willingness to support an increase in the state’s gas tax.
At 27 cents per gallon for gasoline and 27.5 cents per gallon for diesel Montana already has one of the highest gas tax rates in the country.
By: Big Sky Headlines staff