By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Managing Editor
HELENA – A bill in the Montana Legislature, which some hoped could be a promising crutch for Big Sky’s growing housing crisis, died April 1 on the Senate floor.
House Bill 262, called “Revise resort tax laws,” would have allowed resort districts, resort areas, and resort area districts such as Big Sky, to raise resort taxes by up to 1 percent. Revenue collected from the additional tax increase would need to be earmarked for historical building preservation or workforce housing.
After the Senate Taxation Committee passed the bill on March 25, it moved on to the full Senate, which defeated it in a 25-25 tie. A majority vote is needed for bills to move through to the governor’s desk.
“It all came down to the timing of them stopping the vote,” said Kevin Germain, a member of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Housing Subcommittee, which aims to find solutions to the area’s housing issues. “At one point it was up 27-23.”
Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman) first introduced HB 262 on Jan. 20, as a way to provide additional resort tax revenue that would preserve historical buildings in areas that collect resort tax. He later added “or workforce housing” to the bill, one of a number of amendments HB 262 has seen.
Germain said the bill received resounding support from Sens. Debby Barrett (R-Dillon) and Jedediah Hinkle (R-Bozeman), but that it wasn’t enough.
“They really stood up for Big Sky,” Germain said, adding that at this point supporters are seeking solutions. “We’re looking [for] opportunities to resurrect it and don’t know what they are.”