House Speaker Greg Hertz answers Listener Questions on Talkback
Montana Speaker of the House Greg Hertz appeared on the KGVO Talk Back Talk show on Monday, answering listeners’ questions on various legislative and government issues.
Hertz said the legislature will have many problems if Initiative 190, the bill that would legalize recreational marijuana is passed into law.
“This wholesale distribution of marijuana across our state is going to create so many additional problems in the handouts in this thing,” said Hertz. “I mean, the money that will be allocated, they just kind of went through the cookie jar. They said three or four percent is going to go state parks, four percent will go to non game wildlife; 4% is going to go to trails; 37% will buy public access and 10% is going to go the general fund.”
One listener who works directly with the public through a county office asked if and when the state will provide monies to pay back his department for all the PPE they purchased due to the pandemic.
The federal CARES Act provided Montana with $1.25 billion to assist local governments; however, Hertz said the Governor had his own plan to distribute the monies.
“The Governor decided he wasn't going to (release the funds to the county governments),” he said. “So what he's got now is this reimbursement program where basically you submit your expenses to the state. The bureaucracy goes through the requests. Sometimes they approve them and sometimes they don't. I mean, the Governor is still sitting on $600 to $700 million that hasn't even been dispersed. So there's plenty of money to help out local jurisdictions. It's just not getting out the door.”
Another question centered around the healthy balance in the state’s Rainy Day fund, that has grown to over $300 million thanks to greatly increased tax collections.
“We put constraints on that ending fund balance and we put all that money in different pots which basically forced the governor, and he did not like this, that if you take money out of these different funds, you have to cut $1 spending for every dollar you take out so it just didn't allow him to go through our savings account when revenues fall off.”
On the issue of property taxes, Hertz said the Department of Revenue changed property appraisals from every six to every two years, and also changed how the monies were collected.
“I think Montana is only one of the few states who do it at statewide level, and most states do it at the county level,” he said. “Why? Because then you can go complain to the county assessor, and they're much more reactive than the bureaucrats in Helena. I'm looking forward to a new governor and hopefully as governor Greg Gianforte will clean up some of the attitudes that are going on in the Department of Revenue and what's happening with reappraisals in the state.”
Hertz said the upcoming 2021 legislative session will have to take the COVID 19 pandemic into consideration on how to conduct the state’s business.