Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Challenging Sen. Salomon's take on SB 442

| April 4, 2024 12:00 AM

My name is Todd Devlin, a fourth-generation farmer/rancher in eastern Montana, a Prairie County Commissioner since 1995, and a past president of the Montana Association of Counties (MACo) in 2016-2017.

For over 30 years, I have been involved with public land and natural resource issues at the state and national level, currently, as the chair of the National Association of Counties Public Lands Steering Committee and the executive director of the Montana Natural Resource Coalition of Counties.

After reading the editorial opinion authored by Senator Dan Salomon opposing SB 442 stating tax revenue from marijuana was to be distributed unfairly to lower populated counties, I thought we needed clarification of the intent of 442.

The intent was not to give tax dollars based on population, but rather using a formula to put the dollars where hunting, fishing and recreation existed. Using Senator Salomon's position on SB 442, only counties that opted to collect the tax can use the tax. Is he also saying that almost all the billion-plus dollars collected in coal tax can only be used in the county where it is extracted?

The formula for SB442 is as follows (est. $10 million)

1). 50% on county road mileage compared to all counties mileage

2). 25% on county Block Management Acres (BMA) as compared to all BMA in the state

3). 25% on acres of public land in a county as compared all public land in the state

The formula is simple. It is unambiguous in its formula and its intent. On third reading it passed with over 90% of both houses.

Is Senator Salomon telling us now that he didn't realize that the formula never took county population into consideration?

Bottom line:

1). If more BMA and Public Land were in higher populated counties, they would receive more dollars.

2). 32% of the marijuana tax would have gone, and still will go, to recreation, parks and wildlife habitat, which is mostly in rural counties.

3). Hunters, fishermen, and recreationalists will still travel from urban to rural for their fun and our rural roads will continue to degrade without these funds.

This governor knew it was against the state constitution not to allow a veto override vote by the legislature. He also knew that he would probably lose in court, but he needed time.

He knew by the third reading record on SB 442 that his veto most likely would have been overridden if the vote would have been taken immediately. He knew that he needed time to muddy the waters on SB 442 by spewing false and misleading information, and along with his political leverage on the legislature, that he just might be able to have a successful veto. Sad but true.

Todd Devlin