County Commissioner Responds to Repeal of Local Option Gas Tax
Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick spoke to KGVO on Wednesday about House Bill 464, introduced by Kalispell Representative Keith Regier that would abolish the local option gas tax in Missoula, and throughout the state.
Slotnick said the state legislature giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.
“I'm super disappointed,” said Slotnick. “In 2017 in a debate over BaRSAA, which is the state gas tax, there was a lot of conversation among counties to get a larger percentage of that state gas tax that counties collect. The legislature told counties don't come asking for us for any more BaRSAA. If you want money to fix your roads, why don't you take advantage of this tool that's been on the books since 1979 and nobody's ever used. It's called the local option gas tax. We were told in no uncertain terms that if you want money to fix the roads and you don't want to raise property taxes, go do this. So we went and did it.”
Slotnick said Missoula County voters then passed the local gas tax in the November general election.
“It was a tough year obviously with a gigantic global pandemic that made it so any campaign was difficult no matter what side of an issue you're running on,” he said. “Regardless, voters voted yes on the gas tax. So now we have a gas tax.”
Slotnick said in his opinion, the issue highlights the constant clash between the citizens and corporations.
“What we have is two dueling cultural icons, if you will, and I'm basically taking reason and logic and throwing it out the window,” he said. “That's not what this is about. This is about on the one hand, you have the petroleum industry saying we don't like this, and on the other hand, you have Missoula County voters saying we want this. However, if you're in the legislature right now, in the majority, between those two cultural totems, there's one you're going to choose and one you're not going to choose, and I believe that's why they're choosing to follow the petroleum industry.”
Slotnick said if the bill passes, and he said it probably will, Missoula will have to end its local option gas tax, and he says it’s all purely political.
“It it passes, we'll have to cancel ours. I mean, Peter, make no mistake,” he said. This is about Missoula. This is that's what this is about. This isn't about grand policy, or visions for the state. This is just about not liking what Missoula did. Straight up. That's what it is.”
Legislative officials predict the bill will pass with a majority of Republicans expected to vote for it.