Bills to fight invasive mussels get preliminary OK
HELENA: - Both chambers of the Montana Legislature on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a pair of bills that would create a more than 11 million over the next two years for AIS programs - a significant bump from the roughly 3.8 million over each of the next two years, although that amount will be lower following an amendment last week that reduced the per-megawatt amount owed to the state. Utilities getting a majority of their electricity from hydropower would also pay a higher fee to the state, adding on about 2 for residents and 3.2 million in each of the next two years.
Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, objected to the increases during Tuesday’s floor debate, equating them with new taxes on electricity consumers.
“This is more money on consumers, and we have some of the most expensive electricity, at least within the surrounding states,” Zolnikov said.
Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, responded that the estimated impact on the average power bill would be about 28 cents per month.
“To be perfectly honest I think it’s imperative that we pass this bill,” Brown said. “If we wait and we fall on our ideological sword ... we’ll be behind the eight-ball and we’ll be paying out the ears for the rest of our lives.”
Before passing the bill, the House amended it to remove a proposed 2-cent fee on bottled water sold in the state, which would have also provided money to the AIS program.
Following the vote, Senate Bill 363 headed to the House Appropriations Committee, which approved it 9-3. Following a final vote by the House, it will head back to the Senate to consider the new amendments.
Reporter Sam Wilson can be reached at 758-4407 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.