MISSOULA, Mont. - A bill to increase the state gas tax was sent to enrolling Saturday for its final preparation process before heading to Governor Steve Bullock's desk for signing.
The bill initially planned to raise the state gas tax by 8 cents a gallon, and diesel by a little more than 7 cents. A Senate panel trimmed those numbers down to an increase of 4.5 cents a gallon, and diesel tax up 1.5 cents. The increases are scheduled to begin this summer.
The increase of tax will help pay for repairs on Montana highways and roads.
It has taken almost the whole legislative session for the bill to reach Gov. Bullock's desk. Bullock posted a comment on his Twitter page saying, “Zombies can wipe out humans (well, except Montanan's) faster than #mtleg can get an infrastructure bill on my desk.”
Billings resident Dan Weaver says the bill is needed to help state infrastructure.
“Well I don't think it's unreasonable, considering the state of our infrastructure in the state. I'm looking out here at some construction right now and it's probably a good idea,” Weaver said. "Nobody is crazy about tax increases, but I think this will be a direct benefit for all Montana citizens."
The amended bill also includes a three percent fee increase on vehicle registrations and a new “Ferrari” tax on cars and recreational vehicles worth more than $150,000.
Lawmakers want to gradually increase gas tax to 6.5 cents and diesel tax to 2 cents by mid-2022.
Bozeman resident Joshua Bartkoske says he sees why legislatures would target gas tax, but isn’t sure if the increase is the right answer.
“I just pray and hope that the legislature will be able to use the funds that God is giving them, to do what they need to help improve our lives,” Bartkoske said.
The changes, if approved, would raise $37 million the first year and $49 million by 2023 for highway and road projects.