In the final weeks before the midterms, it appears the death penalty could once again be on the ballot in Montana.
The Montana Senate on Thursday voted 51-44 to extend the state’s rural development credit through the end of 2017.
This is the second time this year the measure has been extended, and Republicans are hoping to extend it to the end.
But as the state is already on pace to lose $3 billion from its rural development fund over the next five years, the credit is a huge boon to a state already facing the largest budget shortfall in the country.
In Montana, a $100 million rural development expansion will generate $2 billion in additional revenue, according to the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
“The state has a lot of problems and a lot more challenges in rural America and this is a way to give rural Montana the money it needs,” said Senator Kevin Boemer, the measure’s lead sponsor.
The credit is designed to help Montana’s economy recover from the effects of the Great Recession and is meant to help rural residents purchase and build a new home.
The rural development funds are designed to offset the loss of tax credits given to businesses and individuals in Montana under the state government’s new Economic Growth and Economic Opportunity Act.
The bill also expands the state budget to $8.5 billion over the course of the next four years, and it would expand the state development fund to $6.2 billion over that period.
However, as of January, the state still owed $4.4 billion in rural development aid, according the Legislative Auditor.
“We’re already losing $3.5 million a day in rural tax credits and we’re going to lose another $4 million,” Boemer said.
“I think there are a lot people who don’t realize that we are the biggest outlier in the nation in the rural economy.
It’s not a coincidence that we’ve been one of the most vulnerable to the effects.”
In order to maintain the rural growth credit, the legislature needs to pass legislation that allows the credit to be extended beyond the end date of the 2018 session.
However in order to do that, the chamber needs to have at least three Republican votes in the House of Representatives, three Democratic votes in each chamber and one Republican vote in the Senate.
That means Republicans have a chance to block any extension of the credits, which would end the tax credit.
With Republican control of the Senate, the Senate could vote on the extension later this month, but Boemer hopes to get enough Democratic votes to override any veto threat.
But he said that a veto threat isn’t a guarantee that he will be able to get the extension passed.
“There’s no way that the Senate would vote to override a veto, it’s almost impossible to do it,” Boeman said.
Boemer also believes that if a veto is not removed by the end-of-year deadline, the bill could go into effect in 2019.
“If we’re able to find a way that we can extend the credit past the end [of the 2018], we can put a little bit of hope in our eyes,” he said.
Republicans, however, say the bill is unfair to small business owners, who would lose out if the rural tax credit is extended beyond its current five-year window.
“These are small businesses who have a lot to lose, a lot in the way of tax revenue and a whole lot in terms of jobs,” said state Senator Dan McLaughlin, who is the sponsor of the bill.
“They’re trying to figure out what are the best investments that they can make in the future.
If they’re going out and building something, they’re not going to build that for their family or their business.
It puts all their money in the bank.”
With Republicans controlling both the Senate and House of Representative, Boeman says he will likely find support from his Democratic colleagues.
“Democrats have a very difficult job, because they’re trying their best to get anything done and then they’ve got to go to the floor and they have to fight for a couple of hours,” he explained.
“So we’re just going to try to get something done.”
The bill passed with the support of nearly every Democrat in the state senate, but not everyone in the legislature supports extending the credits.
Republican Senator Steve Daines, who sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post that he’s opposed to the credits extension, but he is in favor of allowing them to expire after the 2020 election.
“What I don’t want to see is a tax credit extension that ends in 2019, and then people lose their jobs or their jobs disappear,” he told the newspaper.
The Senate has yet to hold a vote on this legislation, and Boeman told reporters he’s optimistic that the measure will pass.
“You’re not gonna get that in the next two or three weeks, but you’re gonna get something,” he continued.