The 65th Legislature: Alan Redfield back with new tax ideas

By: 
Liz Kearney

House District 59 Representative Alan Redfield is a Republican who’s not afraid to talk about raising taxes — some taxes, that is. 

Redfield, who represents Sweet Grass County and much of Park County in the Montana House of Representatives, is proposing at least two bills in the upcoming legislative session that would increase fees for some users. One, a $25 boat tag that would raise funds for fishing access site maintenance, was reported on last week.  

Another bill would add a fee to owners of hybrid and electric vehicles to help offset lower gas tax revenues — which help pay for road construction and repair —  generated by more fuel-efficient vehicles. 

The funds from the hybrid fee would go into the National Highway Trust Fund, Redfield said recently. The fee could increase Montana’s contribution without necessarily having to raise gasoline taxes and thus increasing the amount of federal highway funds for which Montana is eligible. 

The proposed fee would be a means of raising funds from vehicles that use the roads but pay comparatively little in gas taxes. 

“Part of what’s wrong with the Highway Trust Fund (balance) is people are driving less and getting better gas mileage,” Redfield said, describing how the trust fund pays for roads. 

A Montana Department of Transportation publication compiled in December 2014, “Transportation Facts,” states that a driver averaging 12,500 miles per year in a vehicle averaging 21 miles per gallon contributes about $3.50 per week or $182.50 a year to fuel taxes for maintaining and constructing Montana highways.

Redfield said there’s a “fair chance” a gasoline tax increase could be approved, but said the increase is not that big a deal to the average person.  

Redfield served on the Revenue and Transportation interim committee between sessions. He’s concerned about the state “living within our means.” Infrastructure and funding Medicaid increases are going to be expensive and the governor’s projected revenue may be $20 to $30 million short, Redfield said. 

Redfield is beginning his third term in the House, and is subject by term limits to serving no more than four. He will serve as chairman of the Agriculture Committee and serve on the Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications Committee and the Taxation Committee.

He said the Taxation Committee may be facing a bill to create a local-option sales tax that would allow larger Montana communities to create a sales tax similar to the 3-percent resort tax implemented in tourist-heavy towns such as Gardiner, West Yellowstone and Whitefish, among others. 

Redfield said he’s not in favor of the local-option tax, but said the resort tax makes sense for small towns that have larger infrastructure needs because of heavy tourist traffic. 

He said he is opposed to Gov. Steve Bullock’s proposal to put a 6-percent tax on medical marijuana. 

“We don’t tax medicine,” Redfield said. “If they really need it — like a cancer patient — do they need to be taxed on it?” 

The tax could raise $2.6 million over the next two years, a Bullock representative said in an Associated Press story. 

Redfield said he would never vote in favor of decriminalizing recreational marijuana because he’s heard of too many cases of children being harmed by secondhand smoke or accidentally ingesting marijuana “edibles,” which often look like regular chocolate candy or brownies. 

Redfield may be reached at (406) 220-1247 or Rep.Alan.Redfield@mt.gov