HELENA – Senate Bill 338, which would provide funding for the long-planned Montana Heritage Center, passed a significant vote at the Montana Legislature on Thursday.
SB338 passed 31 to 18 on its second reading in the State Senate.
For several sessions, lawmakers have rejected funding for a proposed new Montana Historical Society museum in Helena.
“This bill is important because the Montana Historical Society has been trying to get this funding passed for the last 10 years,” said bill sponsor Sen. Terry Gauthier (R-Helena). “This is, I think, the farthest we’ve ever got with a bill.”
SB338 would fund $48 million for the construction of the museum by raising the state lodging tax from 3 percent to 4 percent.
Gauthier said the increased tax will affect mostly tourists and other people traveling to Montana from out of state.
In addition to funding the proposed museum in Helena, the legislation also provides grant funding to preserve and protect Montana’s heritage to local museums and historical societies across the state.
$400,000 would also be provided for the refurbishment of the Marcus Daly mansion near Hamilton and the Moss mansion in Billings.
The Historical Society already has about $10 million for construction of the Heritage Center from private donations and bonds sold more than a decade ago.
“[The Historical Society] has a large amount of history of Montana and they’re only showing about 5 to 8 percent of that right now because all of it is in the basement,” said Gauthier. “These items need to be put out there for the public to see them.”
The Senate will make one more vote on SB338 Friday to send the legislation to the House of Representatives.