Montanans are finding ways to pay for their rising living costs, like property taxes and insurance. For some retirees, this means going back to work. 67-year-old Bob Bloedel is a former general contractor who is going back to work because his home’s tax value and property tax went up a lot.
Bloedel stated, “I’m taking a lot of hits, and I don’t know who to blame.” “I did build more house than I could afford, but since I built it myself, I could afford it until property tax went up.” Bloedel is not feeling alone. People all over Montana are upset about the rise, which is between 15% and 20% on average for property owners and varies from place to place.
“This isn’t just anger. Bradley Molnar, a Republican state senator from Laurel who works with parts of Yellowstone County, said, “It’s anger.” He doesn’t hold back when Molnar talks about how the Legislature handled property taxes and values during the 2023 session.
She said, “Everyone saw the writing on the wall.” Valuations would go through the roof everywhere, especially in the biggest counties. No one was surprised. It was clear to us. “We talked about it and didn’t do anything,” Molnar says. There are groups in the Legislature and lawmakers from both parties focused on protecting local funds.
“We were aware that it would be horrible. Not knowing how ugly it was. It’s also unclear in which places ugly is found, Molnar said. “Some larger, more populated counties got hammered with double-digit increases.”
Molnar asked for a special session three times after the 2023 parliamentary session to try to stop the property tax hike that was going to happen. Similarly, Democrats asked for a special session in July, and the Freedom Caucus, a very right group in the Legislature, just recently asked for one in January 2024. Molnar sued the state, saying it wasn’t necessary to collect as much property tax money as it did, as another way to try to soften the tax increase.
“Then, the administration of the governor’s office sued the taxpayers in Missoula. The Montana Association of Counties then sued on behalf of the taxpayers, and the governor’s office went to war with the taxpayers.” He was successful. Molnar said, “That means he will get another $80 million.”
Lawmakers like Molnar know the fight isn’t over. They think property taxes will be a big issue in the 2024 elections and the next legislative session. You’re setting yourself up for change if people don’t trust those in power. “I think the revolution is now at the polls,” Molnar said. “Perhaps they don’t have enough money to pay their taxes.” After this, what are you going to do?” Bloedel also thinks about this as he tries to figure out how to pay his bills. “We don’t know our choices or where to go,” Bloedel said.