Lawmakers consider higher taxes on new oil and gas wells

Jessica Sena, a lobbyist for the Montana Petroleum Association, spoke against any tax increase for her industry. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would infuse money back into the state’s main revenue fund by increasing taxes on new oil and gas wells.

House Bill 215 would remove what is called a tax holiday, which is a tax incentive for oil and gas companies during the first year of production.

Democratic Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell is the sponsor of the bill.

“I consider this low-hanging fruit,” Dunwell said Thursday.

The bill estimates the measure will bring more than $630,000 into the state’s general fund over the next four years.

Montana Petroleum Association lobbyist Jessica Sena is against the bill.

“Certainly prices may increase, we may be able to attract new investment back into Montana, but I would say that’s a gamble to bet any increase in your general fund monies on these hypothetical situations,” Sena said.

The current tax for the new wells is half a percent of gas production. Dunwell’s bill would increase that to 4.5 percent.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.