Monday, December 22, 2003

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Brown just announced a plan to use the Permanent Coal Tax Trust that might actually work: He proposes using coal tax revenues to match federal dollars for highways, water systems and other projects. Obtaining federal matches would bring $600 million to Montana over the next 10 years, compared to $65 million the money would otherwise earn in interest, he says.

The $688 million already in the fund would not be touched, Brown said.

A two-thirds vote of the Legislature would be required to put the plan up for public vote, he said. If the Legislature turns the idea down, he said he would work for a voter initiative to get the plan on the ballot.

UPDATE: Here's the response from Laurel Republican Ken Miller: “The best thing we can do to grow the economy in Montana is to allow Montanans to keep more of their hard earned dollars. If the coal severance revenues were used to lower taxes to employers and employees directly, then I would consider that a better use of the dollars. If they are diverted just to grow government spending, that would be a very unfortunate mistake.

"Many proposals to spend the coal trust have come and gone with little success. It seems to me we would be better served by a Governor that put the time and effort into finding and implementing 5 or 10 percent efficiencies in Government programs, without eliminating critical services. Inventing new ways to spend tax money is short sighted. We need leadership that thinks generational.”

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