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Missoula County looking at "all options" after state overturns local option gas tax

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Posted at 11:22 AM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 13:22:33-04

MISSOULA — Missoula County commissioners are frustrated Montana leaders have thrown out the local gas tax option, saying it's forcing them to look at "all the options", including property tax increases.

That was the reaction after Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Monday revoking the local option gas tax, a tool that's been on the books for over 40-years.

Missoula voters had approved the 2¢ a gallon local option fuel tax a year ago, seeing it as the best way to raise funds to help pay for a backlog on badly needed street and road improvements. County commissioners and the city council backed the measure, noting it would raise just over $1 million per year, with travelers helping to shoulder the expense.

But GOP lawmakers went on the attack, moving to keep other local governments across Montana from following the same course.

"Yeah, I would characterize our response as disappointment and frustration that the State Legislature would take action to basically nullify our voter-approved local option fuel tax here in Missoula County," Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said. "The harm that that will do to Missoula County residents. We were consistently told 'this is a tool that you have counties in Montana, why is no one using it?'

Strohmaier says commissioners are looking at several options since there are so many transportation projects needing funds, both in Missoula and the surrounding areas. He says that could include property tax increases or even legal action.