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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill Would Speed Up Spending For Oil & Gas Impacted Counties

Rep. Brad Hamlett, D-Cascade, wants to require prosecutors to provide indisputable biological proof that a person committed a capital crime before that person can be sentenced to death. File photo.
Montana Legislature

A legislator wants to get money to oil boom impacted counties faster. The money could be used to for infrastructure projects, schools, or public safety.

If enacted, the bill directs the department of commerce to compare the current amount of oil and natural gas production taxes collected against the average of those taxes collected over the past four years.

If the current amount exceeds that four year average, then 70% of the excess would be used for oil impacted projects.

Senator Brad Hamlett is the sponsor of Senate Bill 145. He says the concept is simple and the current recipients of the tax would still get their share.

"If suddenly there’s a boom and there’s more money and everybody gets the same split but on the increase these counties, governmental entities, basically Eastern Montana will get assistance without having to wait for the legislature to act on their behalf."

That’s because there’s a lag under the Treasure State Endowment Program. Local governments apply to the state Department of Commerce but the final approval comes from lawmakers. The Legislature meets every other year.

Hamlett says under his bill the Commerce Department would evaluate grants and award the money in a more timely manner.

"One thing I should explain is that you can be in a county where you don’t have any oil and gas going on but you might have everybody who’s working on the oil field living there and having to provide services so they can apply too because they’re impacted by it," Hamlet says.

The Montana Association Counties is in favor of the bill. No one spoke against.

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee did not close the hearing on this bill because it was pointed out the scheduled time for this hearing changed several times and there may not have been adequate public notice. The hearing on Senate Bill 145 will resume at a later, yet to be announced date.

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