Montana Farm Bureau, the state’s largest agricultural organization, said considering the serious budget deficit that needed to be addressed, the fact the Montana Legislature was able to fix the shortfall without raising taxes was very impressive.
Nicole Rolf, MFBF’s National Affairs Director and lobbyist, was present for the entire special session to answer questions and educate legislators on actions that could have harmed farmers and ranchers. This covered opposing additional taxes and fees that could have been placed on landowners.
One bill Farm Bureau was concerned about was HB 4 which would have charged a fee on all property parcels outside of a city’s limits to pay for fire preparedness. Additional fees would be charged if those parcels had buildings or timberland. “HB 4 would have essentially raised taxes on property parcels outside of city limits without providing additional services. This would have fallen particularly hard on farmers and ranchers because the term “parcel” was broadly defined and could have caused one owner to pay the fee multiple times,” Rolf said. “Fortunately, the legislature wisely chose to look for other solutions and did not pass this bill.”
MFBF also opposed SB 4, which will charge the Montana State Fund a 3 percent management fee on surplus funds over one billion dollars. Montana State Fund is the provider of most farm and ranch worker’s compensation insurance policies. MFBF members were reluctant to let what they see as their policy holder dollars be used for other purposes. That bill was passed in order to provide $30 million toward reducing the deficit. Fortunately, the bill will sunset in 2019.
“Overall, we thought the special session went well and were thankful that the Legislature protected agriculture, and all Montana taxpayers for that matter, from increased fees and taxes,” Rolf concluded.