Montana Groups Push Public-Private Partnerships, Coal Tax Fund as Possible Infrastructure Funding Mechanisms
The last two Montana legislative sessions produced a lot of partisan bickering over infrastructure, but neither session ended with a comprehensive infrastructure bill. This year Webb Brown, the President of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, is trying to convince the legislature to work together on an infrastructure plan and is pushing two major options.
"Public-Private Partnerships, sometimes called P3s, have been used in other states and even in Canada for an amount to allow private investment in public infrastructure and then have a repayment schedule back to the private investor out of that," Brown said. "But we'd need [the legislature] to grant authority for that to be used as a tool in the future."
A second option involves the Coal Tax Trust Fund, a source of money that is often invoked during legislative sessions, but rarely used.
"Another option is looking at actually capping the coal Tax Trust Fund, which a lot of that money goes to infrastructure right now and would continue to at the one billion dollar level, but anything above that now that we've achieved that level," Brown said. "Our vision is that we actually use that money to bond for projects now."
Bills for both options are expected to circulate during the legislative session, which is expected to be even more divisive than those in recent years due to a budget that is getting more difficult to balance.