Clearing the first hurdle
Senate Bill 241 advances past committee
Senate Bill 241 was neither tabled nor killed by the Montana Legislature’s Senate Taxation Committee. The bill passed the first major hurdle by a vote of 10-2 and is now set for debate on the Senate floor.
SB 241, spearheaded by West Yellowstone and the Big Sky Resort Tax Board and supported by all other resort tax areas in the state, would allow communities to vote on raising the resort tax by 1 percent for infrastructure projects.
Big Sky Resort Tax Board director Mike Scholz, on the subcommittee for the 1 percent resort tax threshold increase via legislation, spoke excitedly into the telephone about an hour after the decision was made on March 12. He’d been making phone calls and was rushed to continue.
“We are really pleased with it. The other resort tax communities are pleased with it,” Scholz said while likely looking down his list of calls to make. “The outcome is yet to be determined after it goes to the floor.”
This isn’t Scholz’s first rodeo. He saw the previous effort for similar legislation in 2017 which resulted in a 50/50 split between Senators. The bill died because a majority was needed for it to advance.
Strategy has been a big part of the discussion since before this legislative effort began: introducing the bill earlier, highlighting resort communities in dire need, emphasizing that it will be about local control – if this bill passes it will allow individual communities to vote on potential 1 percent increases which would sunset after project completion.
It seems likely per committee discussion that the bill will be amended to include projects which are not bonded. “That will probably be amended and such, and we are all in agreement,” Scholz said in conversation before bill advancement by the committee.
Resort Tax Board Vice Chair and fellow subcommittee member Steve Johnson agreed, saying they found the clarification was a useful improvement to the bill.
A majority vote by the Senate would send it to the House Representatives for debate and – if advanced – Governor Steve Bullock’s desk.