Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The property tax fiasco

| August 17, 2023 12:00 AM

State Senator Greg Hertz (R-Polson) recently sent a letter to western Montana media outlets criticizing Democrats for the recent spike in property tax appraisals. Hertz references “Democrats” a dozen times while mentioning his own Republican party only three times. In doing so, Hertz employs the three pillars of radical Republican ideology: identify an enemy, avoid accountability, and display a willingness to lie and deceive.

Hertz’s attack on Democrats is laughable because it ignores the fact that Republicans held a super-majority during the last legislative session. The voting pattern and statements of Democrats on property taxes is a moot issue. The purpose of criticizing Democrats is to further politicize and divide the people of Montana while side-stepping accountability for Republicans.

The reality of Republican manipulations to our tax system is that wealthy landowners and millionaires were given a huge break. The overall tax burden has shifted towards individual small property owners despite the token rebates available for certain homeowners. The reduction on income taxes and capital gains taxes for the wealthiest Montanans far exceeds the paltry $675 rebate for property owners.

One reason for the dysfunction of our Republican-dominated Legislature is their intolerance towards opinions that do not conform to their prejudices and dogma. Representative Zoey Zephyr (D-Missoula) exposed their hatefulness when she was denied the right to speak on the House floor. Within days, Zephyr became an international celebrity and champion for freedom and democracy. Her now-famous words, “my light is on, I’m ready to speak,” have become a rallying cry for those interested in restoring democracy in America.

The reaction of radical Republicans to Zephyr’s presence was to adjourn the House before the people’s business had concluded. Pieces of legislation being debated in the Senate were abandoned as they could not then be voted on by the House.

Like a vampire exposed to the sunlight, even Governor Gianforte ran from the spotlight by refusing to convene a special session to complete pending legislation and address the property tax mess.

The Democrats are not responsible for this situation. They are not the party with a super-majority. This mess belongs squarely with radical right-wing Republicans like Greg Hertz.

David Daniels