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Republican property tax fumble reveals corporate Oz behind the curtain

by By SHEILA HOGAN
| September 8, 2023 7:00 AM

Growing up in Butte, Montana, I remember watching The Wizard of Oz in my family’s living room, mesmerized by the fiery, all-powerful Oz and wondering who he really was. His booming voice. His power over the lives of everyday creatures in Oz, all pining for something they needed.

And then there was the big reveal. As Oz’s voice booms over Dorothy and her new friends, Toto bites the emerald curtain and pulls it back to reveal…a disheveled man frantically pushing buttons to maintain his oh-so-powerful façade.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” he yells, as his identity is revealed.

I cannot help but think about the great Oz as Montana’s Republican supermajority. Over and over again during the session, they voted for rich, corporate tax interests above anyone else, including you and me. And that’s how we got to where we are today, with astronomical property tax assessments and yet major tax breaks for the rich.

Today, we’re seeing the fallout from the disastrous 2023 Legislative Session. The Republican supermajority could have addressed property taxes for the average Montanan by voting for bills brought by Democrats that help manage this dramatic increase and put long-term solutions in place.

Instead, the Republican supermajority cut taxes for the rich and corporations—reducing taxes on investment income and capital gains, or reducing the equipment taxes for corporations, to name just a few. The result is a tax system that is simply not fair. The wealthiest in the state aren’t paying their fair share.

After all those tax cuts for the rich, do you know what they didn’t cut? Yep, you guessed it: property taxes for every day Montanans. While the majority passed tax cuts for everyone but regular constituents, you and I had our jaws drop to the floor when we opened our property tax assessments this summer.

Costs will continue to rise for working families, thanks to Montana Republicans. Starting this summer, Montanans will also see their energy bills rise dramatically – the Republican-controlled Public Services Commission did not stand up for consumers and instead greenlit a big rate hike for NorthWestern Energy and are about to approve a rate hike for Montana Dakota Utilities soon too.

At the end of the day, these rising energy bills and property taxes are only the beginning of our communities realizing, piece by piece, that the Republican party doesn’t, and will never, have our everyday interests in mind.

Sheila Hogan is the Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party and former Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. She was born in Butte.