The SB442 Veto Override

    Senator Wendy McKamey Tuesday, March 19th, 2024  10:32am  

    The 2023 Legislature ended almost a year ago.  However, a couple weeks ago, Judge Mike Menahan issued a decision directing the Montana Secretary of State to conduct a veto override poll on SB 442 to determine if the bill will become law.  I will not be supporting the veto poll override.

                Like many Montanans, I live in a rural area and I know we could benefit by improving maintenance of county roads.  However, SB 442 is not the solution to our problem.  SB 442 is a bill written for the benefit of a small number of people at the expense of everyone else.

                The primary sponsor of SB 442 is Senator Mike Lang.  If SB 442 goes into effect, the seven counties (Blaine, Daniels, Hill, Phillips, Roosevelt, Sheridan, and Valley) represented by Senator Lang will receive nearly $1.6 million dollars a year in distributions to pay for road maintenance, nearly 17% of the statewide total, even though the seven counties represented by Senator Lang only comprise 4.6% of the state population.  In contrast, the county I represent (Cascade) will only receive $235,000 in distributions annually even though our population is greater than the combined population of the seven counties represented by Senator Lang.  Cascade County also pays more in marijuana taxes too. 

                That is one example, but there are many more.  For example, Cascade County will get more in distributions than Yellowstone County even though Yellowstone County pays over 2.5 times more in marijuana taxes and has a population nearly double the population of Cascade County.  As much as I love Cascade County, I am struggling to justify why Yellowstone County should get less than we do.  At a very minimum, Yellowstone County probably has twice the amount of traffic on its public roads and many more needs.  Getting such a paltry amount is not right.

                There is no nice way of saying it.  SB 442 is a redistribution of wealth scheme.  SB 442 takes marijuana tax money and gives it to a favored few.  As a legislator, I have a duty to my constituents, but I also have a duty to the people of the State of Montana.  Its not right to come up with a scheme which extravagantly favors some parts of the state at the expense of everyone else.  We have a responsibility to do our best to treat everyone in our state fairly.  SB 422 fails this basic test.  On these grounds alone, the Governor was justified in vetoing the bill.

    I am a Republican because I believe in fiscal responsibility and limited government.  Redistribution of wealth is not part of the party platform.  If the members of the Legislature want to draft a plan to assist counties in paying for road maintenance, the Legislature needs to draft a bill which takes into consideration the population and the amount of marijuana taxes paid.  We can do that in the 2025 session.  There is no reason to pass the bill to find out how it works and no reason to start giving special treatment to certain parts of the state at the expense of everyone else.  We can do better than SB 442.

    Senator Wendy McKamey SD12





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