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A 2023 Political Recap: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

by By SHEILA HOGAN
| December 19, 2023 7:00 AM

Skyrocketing property taxes. Astronomical energy rate increases. Homes that are unaffordable to most Montanans. And yet more big tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy, while the rest of us are left to foot the bill. 

When we look back on the last year, all these changes and more were brought you by one party and its supermajority: Montana Republicans.

As 2023 ends, let’s look back over the last 12 months to see where Republicans really took us as a state.

The Good. Montana Democrats at every level are speaking out, standing strong and demanding accountability from the Republican administration for making Montana unaffordable for the rest of us.

First, Montana Democrats pulled off the impossible in the 2023 Legislative Session, defeating dozens of ill-conceived constitutional amendments that would have manipulated Supreme Court elections, upended long-standing laws governing Montana’s institutions of higher education and torn down most important pillars in our community.

Democrats stood up for our communities and their most pressing challenges, from defending your privacy rights under the Constitution to affordable housing and access to health services we all need. 

Democrats successfully led hard-fought health care provider rate increases that will prevent long-term care and community mental health from disappearing in towns across our state. 

While the Governor’s budget failed communities, Democrats stepped up to the plate and spoke out, fighting hard and succeeded in adding $15 million to providers rates to ensure places like nursing homes and local mental health providers don’t have to shut their doors.

After the legislative session, Democrats continue to walk the walk of Montana values—from advocating for meaningful long-term tax relief to holding the Gianforte administration accountable for policies that serve only the extremely rich and harm the rest of us. 

Every step of the way, Democrats prioritized regular Montanans. 

One example of this was the Gianforte Administration’s decision to reject $10 million that would have fed around 50,000 Montana children over the summer, a time when kids are at the highest risk of hunger. A team of Montana Democrats pushed back and the Governor switched course, agreeing to accept the funds in 2024.

And more good news is on the horizon for Montana Democrats. Following redistricting, the number of practical and thoughtful Democrat lawmakers in office will continue to grow. And with it, an even greater ability to fight and win for working Montanans. We see this growing force across the state, where democratic central committees are organized and ready for the work ahead.

The Bad. We knew all along that Republicans never had the best interests of regular Montanans in mind. 

But it became painfully apparent in the last 12 months that the ultra-rich were in the driver’s seat, manipulating the game to serve their own narrow interests.

Republicans passed tax breaks for themselves and changed the rules to favor big out-of-state corporations in court against everyday Montanans. They worked to strip public schools of funding and made voting harder for people who stood in their way. Among many other threats on our freedom, they tried to dismantle our right to bodily autonomy and attacked our transgender friends and neighbors for political gain.

The downward spiral continued when we recently received our property tax bills in the mail. The Republican supermajority had the chance to fix this pressing issue during the session. Montana Democrats were the only ones to bring bills to address it. Republicans killed that legislation and stuck you with the bill. 

To keep our communities safe and functional, there is no doubt that we should all contribute our fair share.

The Ugly. Mr. Rogers told a story about his mother telling him to, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 

The most disturbing aspect of the last year was witnessing Republicans attacking our community’s helpers—from librarians and teachers to doctors and nurses. 

The extremist Republicans not only bully their own, but they bully anyone who might stand in their way, even the helpers.

We all know who we are as Montanans, and folks from across the state joined level-headed Democrat legislators to push back against extremism at every turn. 

2024 brings a very different story: A return to real Montana values, where we help our neighbors, not hurt them. And we stand with the helpers, not tear them down.

That’s the Montana I know and the Montana Democrats won’t stop fighting for.

- Sheila Hogan was born and raised in Butte and is the Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party.