Uncommon Ground

Speak Up for Locals

Book-banners and self-anointed obscenity police are now local candidates to the state Legislature

By Mike Jopek

We love Montana, our small towns, our cities, our neighborhoods. Our way of life is second to none in the Union. Our live and let live ways work for us. Our freedoms, public lands, and friendly communities are why so many choose to live in the best state in the nation.

Routinely, people ruling the state from Helena are racing to remake Montana. It’s a campaign to nationalize how we value our state, towns, or libraries. There’s no need to remake Montana into something we’re not.

Last week, I got in the Fish Tank with Ed and Kevin from the Montana Tap House in Whitefish to video podcast about politics in the state Legislature. As any retired politician, I enjoy the mic, an audience. I told the crowded room that the supermajority policies flowing into Montana, out of Helena, are terrible for locals.

Lawmakers increased homeowner property taxes by $250 million per year, according to recent state revenue department numbers. That’s a $1 billion increase over four years. Lawmakers did this via reappraisal.

The state increased the value of existing homes by nearly $60 billion over two years and the Legislature refused to reduce the corresponding residential tax rate of reappraisal to stop the massive tax increase.

Montana lawmakers ignored revenue department warnings and simply put the excess money collected into the state budget as surplus. No other Montana Legislature increased homeowner property taxes that much.

Oddly the same supermajority lawmakers who incessantly complain about how complicated property taxes are, easily figured out how to reduce corporate property taxes by $120 million per year.

In another first, service workers flipping burgers, tossing pizzas, pouring beer or espressos will suddenly have to pay taxes to Montana on the tips they receive from tourists and locals.

The supermajority insists that if Montana service workers make more taxable income, they won’t qualify for public healthcare and the costs of health insurance will be assumed by the owners of restaurants, pubs, and cafes. I doubt it. It simply means that more local workers will be without healthcare.

Cruelly, Montana booted one out of every 10 state citizens and 25,000 children off Medicaid healthcare. Montana enjoys the third highest rate of kids losing healthcare, three times the national average.

The men of MAGA who have meltdowns over Taylor Swift forget that their own Montana daughters and granddaughters are watching, listening. Book-banners and self-anointed obscenity police are now local candidates to the state Legislature. They seek to dictate how we live, what we read.

Leave us alone. Stop assaulting women’s right to choose. Stop passing laws that your own legislative staff repeatedly informs you are patently unconstitutional. Stop raising our state property taxes.

Supermajority lawmakers are infatuated with issues like decorum, of getting along and playing nice by their rules, and only their rules, of dressing up but only in approved attire. Their purity tests should remain out of our lives.

There is no getting along with the supermajorities’ massive homeowner property tax increase, tip taxes, assaults on women’s rights, or making Montana act more like Texas. If we wanted to live in another state, we’d simply move there.

Good people make good things happen and there’s plenty of reasonable and independent-minded locals seeking to represent the Montana freedoms we hold in common.

Working people deserve a break. The past few years in Montana were tough and outrageously expensive for anyone earning a living with hands and minds. If you like chaos, stick with what you got. Or give change a chance.

There are many approachable and experienced locals campaigning for the state Legislature who would calm it down, if you gave them a chance. No one can afford more chaos or expense, especially working people.

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