Thoughts on That Seemingly Defunct Gas Tax

by jhwygirl

Three or four times since last Monday’s council meeting, I’ve given some thought to Councilman Ed Childer’s .02 cent gas tax proposal.

The goal of Childers’ proposal was to put the .02 cent tax before the voters in a referendum vote.

Surprising, even Dick Haines supported it.

Pragmatism, I suppose – how else are we going to pay for our roads and infrastructure? Dick, seeing the vote go down, noted in his goodbye-to-the-gas-tax speech last Monday, that Missoula needs to figure out a way to pay for its roads – and that the gas tax was a way to get some money from the university kids. He closed off with an ominous warning to homeowners – “they’ll be coming to get you,” or something like that.

I don’t know who “they” are. He didn’t say.

I guess he doesn’t realize, either, that those university kids are paying taxes by paying rent. That rent pays the taxes, while also providing someone with a meager profit too.

But I digress…..

In the end, council wouldn’t even return it to committee – it failed on a 6-6 vote, with Strohmaier, Wiener, Rye, Childers, Haines and Mitchell trying to get it back into committee for discussion.

The one thing, it seemed to me, that put a damper on returning it to committee was Childers report that he had spoken with two members of our Board of County Commissioners and that they had said that they wouldn’t vote to put it on the ballot. Clearly, that would have put a kabosh on things.

Why would our illustrious county commissioners say such a thing? I supposed there is some concern with a ballot that is likely to be loaded with lots of bond and levy requests: The county’s 9-1-1 call center ($15,000,000), the city’s new police station ($15,000,000) – both of those numbers which seem to be going up, due to inflation and rising construction and materials cost.

There’s also the $60,000,000 performing arts center (although to be fair there, they’re only asking for $20,000,000 from the taxpayers to get them going). The PAC – BTW – isn’t dead. The city and the Missoula Redevelopment Authority is moving forward with plans to place the taxpayer-funded elephant on the ballot, along with getting the riverfront triangle property into an urban renewal district. That’s because the facility has to provide parking and the only place to put it is underground. That “doesn’t pencil out for the developer,” though – so into a tax district it goes!

Then there’s Missoula County Public Schools that is probably going to make its third attempt at a $10,000,000 levy for facilities upgrades. There was also a technology levy that failed last May too.

There’s also – whew, that list goes on, doesn’t it – the Rural Fire District’s request for funds.

Are some of those legitimate needs? Are most of those legitimate needs?

So the county commissioner’s are concerned about a loaded levy and bond ballot. I suppose that is all valid – but with the PAC on that list for consideration, it seems a little hypocritical.

Especially when we need roads, and we need some way to pay for them.

The .02 cent tax would have funded both city and county roads. Isn’t the city complaining about the cost of maintaining county roads? Isn’t that one of their arguments with the Plum Creek/USFS/Mark Rey deal? That they don’t have funds to maintain what they already have and that they don’t need more? Where, pray tell, is the county going to get money for its roads? They’re in the same pickle as the city is!

I wish the council would have voted to request that the BCC put the tax on the ballot. It was a legitimate request – far more legitimate than the PAC (under any circumstance) – and let the BCC suffer the consequences of not only its hypocrisy but of having interfered with a legitimate request of the city – a city which has little options for funding infrastructure repair and maintenance of city roads.

My dad always told me that a little maintenance goes a long way. What do you think the bill is on our city and county roads right now?

Go ahead – take a guess…..

How about 3 billion buckaroos?

How much longer can we afford to wait for that magic money tree to reign down its crop of $billions$ in funding?

Can I grow one in my back yard? Do I need a special permit?

That bill is growing as we wait, Commissioners. Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away.

  1. Look, we can’t have gas taxes like this. Not in OUR back yard.

    I’ve got a good question for council members.

    Why are you waiting until the very point when gas prices hurt us the most to introduce a tax to make it worse?

    Don’t you care about the families and the children Mister Childers?

    This is salt to an open wound, and that wound is making our back yards worse.

    I sit on my rooftop on Beckwith with my binoculars, and I spie a couple blocks away, the gas station’s prices. I don’t miss one day up there. I catalogue all the price changes, and then compare them with what economists are saying.

    It’s all saying the same: our backyards are about to get intensely fiddled-with by the encroachmentalities of hi gas prices and the city council’s GAS TAX.

    Not in OUR back yard!

  2. Jim Lang

    I doubt it would have passed in November, anyway.

  3. goof houlihan

    Oh, that little thing called “priorities”. You see, it’s hard to convince voters, county or city, to raise their taxes when both governments chase the “cause du jour”. Already, cities are feeling the pinch. There are layoffs in Bozeman, and Bend Oregon just radically reduced it’s operating budget.

    As for the county wide gas tax, it’s been available for a decade but no county commission’s had the gumption to put it on the ballot. The roads weren’t better back then, either.

    Getting bicyclists to contribute to the roads they use would help as well. The “complete streets” are expensive, and all who use them need to bear the burden. How would an increase in gas taxes build bike lanes? The current attitude of bike riders, “they should PAY me to ride a bike” and “cars should share the roads with bikes but not vice versa” are now causing bike vs car road rage in the cities…Portland for example…AND they won’t raise any money to get bike lanes swept or built.

    Oh, and all those college students renting? I LIKE living in a college town, don’t you, commish? And all the bar and restaurant owners and griz grocery and joe’s parkway, et al seem to like their money…and pay taxes…and employ people, ya know?

  4. Ruthlmm

    Although there is an updated post by J-girl, I’m responding to the notion that renters DO pay property taxes, in their own way. The short response is, “yes and no.”

    From 1974 until 1992 I rented, and always voted for ballot issues that struck me “ooh, THAT’S a nice idea. Let’s do that!” Never once giving a thought to someone paying the bill.

    My voting habits changed when I started receiving the bill in my mail twice a year, after I bought a house. Back when mere mortals could actually buy a house in Missoula. $85,000 was high then. I kept the purchase in the $60,000 range.

    Then, my voting habits RADICALLY changed when my property tax bill doubled in 8 years. So, writing a check for $850 per year went up to writing a check for $1,900 a year. I can’t do it. Paychecks won’t cover it.
    I tap my small savings for that each year, so obviously, that’s going to run out.

    Soc Sec. income and savings will not cover that sort of expense. So, I plan on losing my house in my retirement.

    I’ve heard many friends, acquaintances and folks in the grocery line comment “Yeah, I’m voting for it. I don’t have to pay for it.” Then chuckle. I’m sure some renters have felt the impact of bond/mill issues. I’m sure some of the commenters are either rich or joking. But, I believe I am not alone in observing a change in voting habits since I started receiving the bill for all the OPTIONAL items our community puts on the ballots … since I started paying attention.

    As far as renters go, landlords can only pass on that cost as far as the market will bear. They have to pay it, not matter if it’s shared by renters or not. Some renters may feel impact, many do not. (I am not a landlord, just trying to keep my own home.)

    In all my decades of renting, my rent never once went up for taxes. I was close to my landlords. They told me twice that rent was rising to help pay the power bill that was included in the rent. (those were the days, eh?)

    After proudly calling myself a liberal, a Democrat, a progressive for years, I now find myself voting against anything on the ballot that will force me from my home.
    That’s a sad state of affairs.

    We need tax reform.

    We need to spread the items that are currently on property tax bills , somehow, to the population at large within the area of benefit.

    No representation without taxation.

    THanks for reading. The world is not black-and-white. There are Democrats, struggling with what many people call “tax-and-spend Democrats.”

    Many of us need someone to look out for the working and retiring population who are struggling to keep their homes.

    Still working hard.
    — Ruthlmm

  5. rickclemens

    Dick’s right, but the way he talks you wouldn’t even figure they’re here already–like the bureaucrats won’t snatch your money the first chance they get. Imagine one thief stepping aside so another can pick your pocket. It’s just thief hierarchy.

    All the bonds and mill levies are gonna fail. Not because we’re looking at rough economic times, but because nobody’s falling for it anymore–not from the commissioners, the city councilmen, the Office of Property Grabbing or any of the rest of those big-government con artists.

  6. yeah – that damned zoning is a problem, isn’t it rickclemens – till someone wants to put a fraternity house or a casino next to you…

  7. rickclemens

    I figure we got better odds at keno than rigged faro pit Roger Millar laughingly calls subdivision review.

  8. I’m assuming city subdivision review?

    Either way, if you don’t like the regs, you’d be better to refer to specifics of the portion of the regulations that you don’t like or that you don’t feel are being reviewed properly and try and change them or speak specifically to what you feel they’re ignoring…I mean, the subdivisions regs are what? 100 pages? Once you get used to using them, it’s pretty easy.

    I know you aren’t asking me – but the city review is far more comprehensive than the county stuff – but that’s just my opinion.

  1. 1 Councilman Childers Clarifies My Gas Tax Post « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Councilman Ed Childers – an all to infrequent poster both here and at his own weblog – sent me some clarifications on my post from yesterday, Thoughts on That Seemingly Defunct Gas Tax. […]

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