After the Missoula City Council overwhelmingly approved Missoula County’s effort to place a two cents per gallon gas tax on the June primary election ballot, Commissioner Josh Slotnik provided some background on Monday’s upcoming vote.

“We’ve had at least two public meetings and the comments have basically come from two directions,” said Slotnik. “Comments from people seem to be in favor of the tax, while comments opposed are mainly coming from gas stations and convenience store organizations. The owners, mainly in Lolo, were nervous that a two cent per gallon gas tax would force people to go across the county line to purchase gas.”

Slotnik said there were some gas stations that had a unique plan.

“Rather than raise their prices by two cents per gallon to accommodate the gas tax, what they would do is keep their prices the same and basically eat that two cent gas tax and decrease their own margin,” he said. “They would do that out of concern over losing those customers because of the gas tax. So they wouldn’t be leaving the decision to the consumer, they just decided to eat the two cents and keep the customers.”

Slotnik again emphasized that the two cents per gallon tax would provide necessary funds to fund road repairs and maintenance.

“I’m sick of property taxes just like everyone else and meanwhile, we have 1.5 million tourists visiting us every year, driving all around, and I’m really seeing this as a way to capture revenue from tourists and offset some of the dame that they cause,” he said.

Slotnik said there are two powerful groups who will be battling over the issue on the June primary ballot.

“There’s one local industry group that contacted me and said they supported the gas tax going on the ballot, because they believe if the roads were better then their businesses would benefit,” he said. They will spend money on media ads to support the gas tax. On the other side, the petroleum vendors have a group called the Montana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, and it’s my guess that they will also be spending money on media ads to oppose the measure.”

The three County Commissioners will vote on Monday whether or not to place the proposal on the June primary ballot for the voters to support or oppose.


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