Opinion

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Reality Check

Don’t California Our Montana

It appears the migration we see now has more permanency than the early 2000s migration

According to a recent article I read, 50,000 people move to Nevada annually. Nevada is a conservative state (save for the urban Las Vegas area) and its property taxes are very reasonable. No doubt many who move there do so for the affordability and opportunity. Boise, Idaho is in the midst of a population boom as well. Idaho is also a conservative state, but affordability in Boise continues to decrease with the influx of migration and cash from those fleeing California. California three-bedroom homes sell for $700,000; replacing the same home in Nevada or Idaho costs less than half that amount. Many locals are being displaced by the recent migration and have little power to reverse the trend.

Montana has weather extremes that may slow population growth, but we have the beauty and laid-back lifestyle that migrating Americans seek. We also have a collective culture that many of us fear losing to an influx of out-of-state folks seeking solace in Montana. I have noticed quite a few retired police and military moving to Montana, attracted by our low crime and low density population. I suppose if I had it my way, we would continue to attract those who have spent their careers protecting what Montanans value most: freedom. We are a “live and let live” state where we place personal freedom above virtually everything else. While this is an attractant, I wonder if those who migrate here truly embrace this Montana virtue, rather than seek to “Californicate” Montana with expansive government, taxation and NIMBY property rights measures.

It appears the migration we see now has more permanency than the early 2000s migration. In the past we have seen that population booms are followed by busts, like we saw between 1995 and 2000, where 111,530 people moved to Montana followed by 116,696 moving away. But times have changed; folks who have jobs in other states can now seamlessly work remotely. While connectivity remains an issue in our most rural areas, I have met an inordinate number of folks who work remotely, raise their families here, and fly to the location of their job every few weeks when necessary. This lifestyle is actually cheaper than living where their job is. They earn a salary required to live in California, but have the ability to use those funds to live better and cheaper in Montana. The “winter kill” effect may be the only detractor that limits migration here, but it doesn’t appear that the impact of weather is as persuasive as fleeing the over-taxation, suffocating density and bizarre public policy occurring in states like California. Montanans understand why migrants wish to flee from overbearing government and taxation, but as the bumper sticker says, please “Don’t California our Montana.”

Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.