Poll: Do You Support A State Tax Increase On Gas And Diesel?

Local government officials from throughout Montana, including ours here in Great Falls, are pushing the Legislature to pass an 8-cent tax increase on gasoline, as well as a 7.25-cent increase (both figures per gallon) to the state’s diesel tax. The bill at issue, HB 473, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, was introduced in the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday.

The Tribune’s very good Capitol reporter, Phil Drake, cited testimony from Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly, City Manager Greg Doyon, and Austin Walker of the GFDA, who all support the tax increase:

Mayor Bob Kelly said the Electric City is a river town and though roads and bridges over the river are not the city’s responsibility, ‘our citizens drive them every day.’

He pointed to the Great Falls Public Schools’ recently passed $100 million bond of an example of a community supporting infrastructure projects and encouraged lawmakers to have the courage to move the bill forward.

City Manager Greg Doyon said communities need the flexibility the bill provides to fund projects.

Austin Walker of the Great Falls Development Authority also endorsed the infrastructure proposal and ‘everything the bill will do in this state.’

We have to admit, we’re a little torn on this one. While we generally oppose net tax increases, the revenue generated from HB 473 would go towards infrastructure projects and the Montana Highway Patrol. With infrastructure comes the adage, “Pay now, or pay more later.” HB 473 would also act as an effective tool to capture revenue from tourists. On the other hand, we’re concerned about the regressive nature of increasing the fuel tax. Montana ranks 49th in the nation in wages, and Great Falls — with over half of its public school students eligible for free and reduced lunch (p. 7) — is, on balance, a low-income community.

This graphic from the Tax Foundation shows where Montana stands in relation to other states’ fuel tax rates:

GasTaxMap
Credit: The Tax Foundation

What do you think? Do you support paying more at the pump? Vote in our poll, and tell us why in the Comments…

Do you support HB 473, the proposed fuel tax increase?

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17 COMMENTS

  1. We can’t afford 8¢ increase! We pay income tax, property taxes, and others already. This would mean a $3 increase EVERY TIME I FUEL UP. At twice a week that’s $6 a week, and that equates to $312 a year more in taxes I pay alone. Add another about $161 a year for my wife’s car, that’s $474 more a year in taxes. That doesn’t sound like much to some, but to us, that is the cost of our car insurance for 6 months. If you want to cut my property taxes by $474 a year, I would support it. How about we ditch some of the regulations and taxes for companies to attract them here, and bring more people in to our tax base? That would make more sense to me.

  2. while maybe $.08 doesn’t sound like much to some people it’s still an increase and my income is not going up . the price of gas is somewhat lower at present but when it rises , as it always must , consider the eight cents added to an increase of 70 or 80 cents later and how much more that is going to hurt . Further more where is the guarantee it will go where they promise now . Those people that promise have a tendency to figure ways to divert it elsewhere and often it isn’t used for the original purpose .

  3. First of all, you need to read between the lines. If the Bill provides “the flexibility to fund projects”, that means you have to understand local government’s definition of “Infrastructure” which could mean anything from dog parks to museums. Second, the 40% cited as would be paid by out-of-state tourists is by all common sense greatly exaggerated and would probably be less than 2%. If those promoting this Bill really think out-of-staters will be footing the bill, then we should allow residents of Montana to show their drivers license when they buy gas and be exempt from the increased tax. Finally, you might want to ask your legislator how much of the current fuel tax receipts is spent on roads, bridges and the Highway Patrol. And where does your vehicle registration tax go?

  4. Nobody likes paying any more taxes than they have to but look at the comparison to other states regionally. We rank pretty poorly and our roads and other infrastructure reflect that. If we want to attract better industry, we need to show some pride in the condition of our state and its infrastructure. Aint nuthin for free anymore folks. Just the way it is……

    • Good points, and we LEAVE money on the table when we don’t ask visitors, tourists and other agents of commerce coming in and out of our state who use our roads and bridges at no cost.

  5. As a RURAL farmer and rancher, I have neighbors from both sides of the aisle in support of this so we can MAINTAIN our gravel roads and keep them in good repair, and many smaller counties hard-pressed for resources and if not from this ‘user’ source of funds, then it’s must come from rural property owners and even Joe Briggs has
    told me at commission meetings his ‘hands are tied’ to get more road mils. HB473 had broad support across the spectrum, from small counties to cities, and another aspect is the shortfall in fuel tax funding due to increased fuel efficiency and I myself – I have big fuel bills for farm equipment, trucks, tractors – realize the necessity of insuring we have reliable FARM TO MARKET infrastructure and it just doesnt’ happen out of ‘thin air’. When roads aren’t maintained, it’s expensive to keep buying tires, fixing axles, replacing springs and WAITING for snow to be cleared from roads so commerce can go on. Another factor is 40 percent of the fuel tax collection would come from capturing DOLLARS from tourists and non-residents who use our roads but pay NO property and income taxes in our state. I appreciate the coverage of this bill and the debate, something that should have occurred last session and let’s see some sound alternatives. I don’t believe Rep. Glimm’s approach is sustainable, more of another ‘band-aid’ that doesn’t help RURAL COUNTIES plan, and I’m all about rural infrastructure. Tires are NOT cheap.

  6. Just look at the massive increase in the property tax because of the school levy. (And there is another one coming.) The senior citizens cant afford it. Most people who have to drive to work cant afford more taxes. Just how much blood are they going to try and squeeze out of this rock?

  7. Why does it seem every government agency is currently at asking for more, more, more–but fixed income citizens are being asked and told to do with less, less, less. At some point, when it comes to paying more taxes vs. not buying meds, seeing a doctor or even having a pet, including expensive shelter animals, the answer becomes: get out of my wallet. Oh, what? You thought it was your wallet??!!

  8. I think Mayor Kelly has voted without hesitation for every proposed tax increase that crosses his path. He may be wealthy but not all his constituents are.

  9. I have not had an increase in Social Security in 3 years. My property tax has increased almost $500 per year. The present gas tax goes into the General Fund. Take all of that money back first.

  10. My first instinct is “yes, more for roads and MHP is good”. However, after seeing where we compare to neighboring states with more drivers and more roads, 8¢ is excessive! We are even higher than Colorado! Thank you for posting this poll and information. Amanda Curtis from Bozeman has also been posting updates to FB with Legislative session updates everyday, which is very helpful to stay informed and give all of us the opportunity to directly contact our representatives.

  11. I have always been an advocate of EVERYONE paying their FAIR SHARE. Likewise, I recognize that government exists to provide those services that are a benefit to society and cannot logically be constructed and maintained individually. If that were the case, we would have toll roads and bridges everywhere!

    Sadly, government most often runs off the rails! While mandating greater fuel milage, they forgot that less taxes are collected. Even though more modes of transportation now exist on which fewer taxes are collected… the necessity of maintaining roads, bridges, streets, etc. are greater now than ever. Ahh… Not to worry… We will just raise the tax on a few… Less complaints that way.

    The basic funding mechanism of taxation must be changed. To provide those basic necessities (not the luxuries) ALL SHOULD PAY EQUALLY! Otherwise we all will be better off if we just send in ALL the money we make in to be spent “wisely” by our benevolent government!

  12. I’ve advocated that the fuel tax GOES directly to what is intended for, that’s what I suggested to Senator Fitzpatrick and Rep. Trebas, such as as ‘lockbox’ to insure that the fuel tax income actually GOES for fixing our streets, roads and bridges.

    • I would require super-majority to amend any changes, keep it in infrastructure TRUST.

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