The Montana Department of Transportation is facing a budget shortfall. The department gets no money from the general fund so their funding come from diesel and gas tax revenues and trucking fees. But those sources are down.
Gas tax collections are down thanks in part to more fuel efficient vehicles. Lower gas prices do provide a bump in collections but that is offset by a drop in trucking fees, due in part from the downturn in the Bakken. (The trucking fees come from such things as oversize and overweight trucks.) Those sources combine for 34 percent of the department’s budget.
Mike Tooley is the director of the Montana Department of Transportation. He says the department will look internally for where necessary cuts can be made. They will review highway project to make sure they can make the federal match on it, a federal funding requirement. So far that has not been a problem. After the federal review then they will look at state construction.
Tooley says state projects such as chip sealing or some of the smaller ones will probably be deferred. He adds, “But over the long haul we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing; it is just not as the same pace we would like it to be.”
The director also says they are starting to plan for the next biennium. Their approach to the next funding cycle will be as another opportunity to again look inward. He says there may be some efficiencies they’ve missed.
"I think we need to address those to make sure we deliver the projects and the snow plows and do what we do on the roads for the public,” says Tooley. He thinks will help the department realize some savings “and not be talking about spending reductions in the future.”