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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Bill To Fund Montana Museum Is History

"Herd Bull," a bronze bison skull sculpture by artist Benji Daniels on display in front of the Montana Historical Society in Helena, MT.
Eric Whitney
/
Montana Public Radio
"Herd Bull," a bronze bison skull sculpture by artist Benji Daniels on display in front of the Montana Historical Society in Helena, MT.

A proposal to fund a new Montana history museum was defeated Thursday in the state Legislature.

The so-called Montana Museums Act was tabled by the House Taxation Committee on a tie vote, presenting the latest loss in a more than decade-long effort by the state historical society.

Senate Bill 338 would have added a 1 percent increase on the state’s sales tax on hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds. A portion of that money would have funded construction of a new state history museum and grants for local historic preservation projects across the state.

Supporters of the bill said most of that tax would fall on tourists coming into the state.

However, some Republicans on the committee, like Rep. Becky Beard from Elliston voted against the bill saying it was a burdensome tax increase that would have to be paid by Montanans.

"I am really opposed to raising taxes of any sort, especially when we have other needs in our state, critical priorities, that need to be addressed first," Beard says.

The bill by Sen. Terry Gauthier, a Republican from Helena, had already passed out of the Senate. It was supported by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, groups representing hotels, state history associations, and others.

Two Republicans joined seven Democrats in voting for the museum act during Thursday’s House Committee. Nine Republicans voted against it.

A new home for the Montana Heritage Center was first proposed in the legislature in 2005.

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