YES on HB 646!

BY SHARON PATTON-GRIFFIN on 

ACTION ALERT!

Ask the HOUSE TAXATION COMMITTEE to vote YES on HB 646 to  ASSIST COAL-IMPACTED WORKERS & COMMUNITIES, AND PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION COAL TRUST FUND.

HB 646 sponsored by Helena Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell was assigned to the House Taxation Committee for 8 AM hearing Thursday, March 25th. It replaces lost coal revenue while assisting communities disadvantaged by the market transition to cleaner, cheaper renewable power. And it is all paid for by an offsetting reduction in energy prices.


Before sunsetting, the worker-protection part of the HB 646 tax will provide about $955 million available over two decades to finance

a pension safety net,

up to two years of retraining,

enhanced unemployment, and

other help for Montana’s 2,109 coal industry workers and 5,100 others in coal-impacted communities.

HB 646 also will gradually replace lost revenue now coming to

  • state,
  • tribal,
  • county, and
  • city governments

from coal royalties, leases, and coal taxes – about $1.049 billion total by 2034 and $139 million per year thereafter.  Together the combined programs will receive $2.004 billion by 2034.

“Consumers should not notice much of the tax rate increase in an existing tax on each kilowatt hour of electricity to fund these measures,” noted Rep. Dunwell, “because $1.049 billion of that $2.004 billion in revenue will gradually replace the dwindling coal tax. I am excited to be seeking bi-partisan support for this forward-looking legislation embraced by Tom Towe, the former chair of the State Senate Taxation Committee from Billings who authored the Constitutional Coal Trust.”

“HB 646 is needed to replace dwindling coal revenue to continue funding the Constitutional Coal Trust, schools, county governments, Coal Board impact grants, the state long-range building program, the state parks trust, libraries, conservation districts, the cultural and aesthetics trust, and more,” Towe explained. “An energy replacement tax will be better than using other taxes to replicate lost coal revenue. Fortunately, it will be paid for out of the reduced cost of electricity and, thus, it does not increase the burden on electricity rate payers,” Towe said.


Energy from renewable sources does not have fuel or pollution control cost embedded in its pricing. So, the average household should save $7 to $15 per month as the market moves to cheaper renewable electricity. Thus, the entire combined $2.004 billion will be paid for by the current drop in energy prices.
The total HB 646 tax will be phased in starting at about $2.05 a month in 2021 for the average electricity consumer. It will climb to $5.72 per month by 2034. Then it drops to $3.84 per month thereafter in 2035. That 2035 amount equals ½ penny/kWh.


“The 2035 amount reflects the sunsetting of 1/4th of a penny on every kilowatt hour of electricity produced. Until 2034, 1/4th of a penny of the tax was for worker benefits and up to ½ of a penny was for projected gradual coal replacement tax collections,” added Greeley Colorado resident Russ Doty, former member of the Montana House Ways and Means (Taxation) Committee. As the main drafter of HB 646, Doty says it is appropriate for that 1/4th of a penny part of the HB tax “to aid workers who must shift jobs as markets end coal use.”


“Using ¼ of a penny to assist workers and coal-impacted communities will add only $1.88/month from savings to an average users’ light bill,” Rep Dunwell continued. “And since current market-driven saving from the wind and sun will always exceed the tax on poor and rich alike, more religious leaders are blessing the idea of using some savings to help our fellow Montanans.”


To support HB 646, please encourage legislators from each party to become bi-partisan cosponsors. 

Lola Sheldon-Galloway and Jeremy Trebas (Cascade County Representatives) are on the House Taxabion Committee.


According to a comment made by Rep. Galloway during the March 25th hearing, her  father was laid off when the Anaconda Company shut down the Great Falls Smelter and left workers and their families without any means of support.  She indicated support for families and communities that will be negatively affected by the gradual shut down of Coalstrip.


Leave a polite phone message of support at (406) 444-4800–your message will be delivered each member of the House Taxation Committee.


Send an email message to Cascade County Representatives Lola Sheldon Galloway (HD 22) and Jeremy Trebas (HD 26).  


Please show your support for this in every polite way you can.


Feel free to contact Russ or Dodie if you have questions or would like to coordinate action on this further. 
Russ Doty, MTCARES Team (406)696-2842

Dodie Andersen, MTCARES Team, (406)493-0606

Colstrip Unit No. 4, the 740-megawatt coal-fired power plant partially owned by NorthWestern Energy, is out of service for up to six months or more, according to a memo to the Montana Public Service Commission. TRIBUNE PHOTO/JOHN S. ADAMS Colstrip. TRIBUNE PHOTO/JOHN ADAMS


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