Uncommon Ground

Off to the Races

Basic accountability and decency would be welcome additions to democracy

By Mike Jopek

Thank the state Legislature for local workers being priced out of the housing market. Those knuckleheads outlawed locally enacted programs that guaranteed housing affordability to workers in places like Whitefish and Bozeman. Lawmakers seemingly insist that building more and more million-dollar condos will fix worker housing, as if a nurse earning a local hospital wage might afford that mortgage.

Possibly the Legislature believes the ridiculous idea Congressman Ryan Zinke earlier proposed for a 50-year mortgage. Ugh, so much interest to banks, which already have all the money, except what insurance controls. Who’s running things in Montana, have you looked at those home, car and health insurance bills lately?

Last week’s deadline passed as candidates across the state filed for office. What’s become abundantly clear is the need for a new Legislature, with new leadership. The last one, while holding a $2 billion budget surplus, knowingly saddled homeowners statewide with an unnecessary and unwelcome $250 million per year property tax increase.

Instead of floating down the residential tax rate of reappraisal like every Legislature faced with statewide land rushes, supermajority lawmakers put increased property tax dollars into the state budget. This, after stern warnings from their own revenue department that reappraisal’s massive valuation tax increase would hit existing homeowners very hard.

Lawmakers then had the nerve to blame cities and counties for the state mess. What bull. No wonder commissioners across Montana are pig biting mad at the state.

Hundreds of candidates filed for state office. People clearly want our Montana back. Basic accountability and decency would be welcome additions to democracy. The supermajority blowhards had their party, the book banners their day. Now it’s time for balance. The past few years were way too expensive in Montana.

Even now, they’re busy cooking up wealth redistribution schemes using the tax valuation of Montanans’ homes, planning potential tax breaks to others versus the actual homeowners whose existing home produced the tax value increase through the state’s reappraisal.

Every Legislature since the state Constitution figured it out. It’s not complex. This supermajority got confused, likely distracted arguing too much amongst themselves about how members should dress or which corporation doing business in Montana gets the bigger cuts.

The next reappraisal cycle is well underway. The state revenue department tells lawmakers this upcoming November of the newest valuation increases. More than a year ago, the revenue department told the state Legislature that existing homes had increased $60 billion in value during reappraisal.

The Flathead enjoys the largest share of short-term rentals combined with nonresident homes in the state, leaving workers with fewer options for living. Workers compete for housing with the millions of tourists frequenting the valley. It’s a bad deal for locals who are priced out.

Montana needs to get its inflation under control. Housing, property taxes, and insurance are way too expensive. The yahoos appear sleeping on the job. Their red tape reduction is costing locals plenty.

Take time to meet or help your state candidate. I’m excited about several of the 2024 races. There are some great locals running. People who will protect your rights and freedoms. Fundamental rights like women’s healthcare and reproductive choices.

Montana got off track, veered toward the wrong direction. Things aren’t quite right. Too expensive. The wind is blowing too hard against us. Almost like the guys running things just aren’t listening to anybody but a bunch out of state consultants. No locals could dump 35,000 children off Montana’s healthcare rolls.

The book banners and political zealots hunger to rule what you read, what you wear, what you think, and when and if you become a parent. There are fundamental rights at stake this election cycle. The right to choose is your ballot.