HELENA, Mont. — The Montana State Fund filed a complaint against the state arguing legislation passed last week to temporarily charge a 3 percent management fee on its assets above $1 billion was unconstitutional.
Just hours after the fund made its filing in District Court in Helena on Friday, Judge Mike McMahon denied a request for a temporary restraining order and wrote he was concerned whether the state fund “has established a legitimate cause of action or that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims.”
“We have serious concerns about the propriety of the lawsuit, and it appears the court feels the same way,” Ronja Abel, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Bullock, said Monday.
The court found no irreparable harm would result by waiting to hold a hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction, Montana State Fund President and CEO Laurence Hubbard said. “The court has not ruled on the merits of the actual complaint regarding the constitutionality” of the legislation, he said.
The state fund, which sells workers’ compensation insurance, has about $1.5 billion in assets managed by the state Board of Investments. The management fee would raise about $15 million a year over the next two years. Lawmakers passed the fee as part of a package of bills to address a projected $227 million budget deficit.
Attorneys for the state fund argue state law requires the money it collects and the interest and dividends on investments to only be used for the operations and obligations of the state fund.
Supporters of the bill said asset management fees are a normal cost of doing business and a legitimate expense.
McMahon set a Dec. 4 hearing on the state fund’s request for a preliminary injunction.
The Montana State Fund paid just over $334,000 in costs for transactions made on its investments between July 2016 and June 2017.