The Roundup -

Governor Signs Legislation To Return More Oil And Gas Tax Revenue To Eastern Montana Communities

 

Left to right, front to back: Representative Joel Krautter (R-Sidney), Governor Steve Bullock, Sidney Mayor Rick Norby and Representative Bridget Smith (D-Wolf Point). (Photo submitted)

Helena, Mont. – Governor Steve Bullock has signed House Bill 656, a bill sponsored by House District 35 Representative Joel Krautter (R-Sidney), to return more oil and gas tax revenue to eastern Montana cities and towns. Sidney Mayor Rick Norby was on hand for the bill signing and said, "This has been one of my proudest moments as Mayor and I am so thankful for the work of Representative Krautter." In signing the bill Governor Bullock stated that, "When eastern Montana does well, all of Montana does well."

The legislation restores a funding structure that distributes money from the Board of Oil and Gas' oil and gas natural resource account to cities and towns in counties with oil and gas production, without raising current production tax levels. This funding structure for cities and towns was in place prior to the 2017 legislature, at which time distributions to cities and towns was eliminated due to legislative changes diverting money for other state programs. HB 656 restores this funding structure to cities and towns, with a 50 percent distribution increase for cities and towns from pre-2017 levels. The bill's fiscal note estimates the legislation will eventually restore the total annual distribution of $1-5 million to cities and towns in counties with oil and gas production.

Senator Tom Richmond (R-Billings) carried the legislation in the Senate and stated the bill, "serves a very good purpose, it does provide some direct funding for impact areas that would not otherwise go there."

Fairview Mayor Brian Bieber, while unable to attend the bill signing was thankful to hear about the passage of HB 656 stating, "Thank you to everyone involved in this process. Funding such as this is crucial to the survival of Fairview and other small oil impacted towns and cities."

Representative Krautter credits the successful legislative effort to a united approach at the legislature. "We started having phone conferences and meetings with eastern Montana mayors and interested stakeholders before the session began, to find common ground, identify our strategy to get this passed and address any concerns early. I especially want to thank Tim Burton and Kelly Lynch with the Montana League of Cities and Towns for their assistance and hard work on this bill. Bringing more oil and gas money back to eastern Montana communities, where the wealth is produced and impacts are felt on public safety and infrastructure was a priority of mine, so I'm very happy to see this victory for the people of my district and eastern Montana," Krautter said.

Proponents of the bill included Richland County, with Commissioners Shane Gorder and Loren Young traveling to Helena to testify in support of the bill, Roundup Mayor Sandra Jones, Sidney Mayor Rick Norby, Fairview Mayor Brian Bieber, Wolf Point Mayor Chris Dschaak, Fallon County Commissioner Roy Rost, the Montana Association of Oil, Gas and Coal Counties, the Montana League of Cities and Towns, the Montana Association of Counties, the Montana Infrastructure Coalition, and the Montana Petroleum Association.

Krautter's bill had bipartisan support from the very beginning, being co-sponsored by Senators Tom Richmond (R-Billings), Steve Hinebauch (R-Wibaux), Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip), Kenneth Bogner (R-Miles City), and Representatives Alan Doane (R-Bloomfield), Rhonda Knudsen (R-Culbertson), Joshua Kassmier (R-Fort Benton), Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings) and Democrats Bridget Smith (D-Wolf Point) and Mary Ann Dunwell (D-Helena).

 

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