Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Claims Gianforte raised your taxes, gave himself a cut

| June 26, 2024 6:30 AM

By Ryan Busse

Gov. Greg Gianforte raised your property taxes. And he did it deliberately, in order to give the wealthy and corporations huge tax cuts. That’s a simple truth that our governor doesn’t want you to hear, but it’s important for all Montanans to understand as we decide whether Gianforte deserves a second term.

Just last year, Gianforte and his supermajority in the Montana Legislature faced an important choice: Should they follow the recommendation from Gianforte’s own Department of Revenue, which suggested lowering the residential property tax rate from 1.35% to 0.94% in order to keep property taxes neutral — as previous Republican and Democratic governors have done? Or should they ignore that suggestion and bow to the lobbyists of wealthy corporations who pleaded for millions in tax cuts to bolster their profits? 

Gianforte, of course, chose option two, walloping Montana homeowners and renters with the highest tax hike in state history so corporations could get their tax cuts. It hit the rest of us hard. The Gianforte tax hike is pinching Montana families at a time when our state is already facing a housing crisis. Under Gianforte’s watch, Montana is the most expensive it’s ever been. And then he made it worse.

Only one Montanan — our governor — is ultimately responsible for raising property taxes. But that’s not what Gianforte wants you to believe. “It’s the counties’ fault,” he falsely claims. Or “city governments spend too much money,” he says. Those are lies. Just ask the countless elected Republican county commissioners and municipal leaders across our state who are furious that Gianforte is blaming them, willfully bearing false witness against his own neighbors. 

Speaking of his neighbors, Gianforte is faring pretty well through his own tax hike, and that raises even more serious questions about whether he deserves a second term. 

Public records show Gianforte’s next-door neighbors in Bozeman got slapped with a tax increase of nearly 71% in 2023, bringing their annual property taxes to over $11,680. But Gianforte’s mansion only got a tax increase of 19%, totaling $7,088. And it gets much, much worse. 

Gianforte owns another mansion in Helena. According to a blistering investigation by MTN News, property taxes on every one of the 75 homes surrounding his privately owned mansion in Helena shot up dramatically. One of his neighbors got hit with a 62% tax hike. But what happened to Gianforte’s own property taxes? You guessed it. Somehow the tax bill on his Helena mansion went down nearly 7%. He gave himself a tax cut. 

All of this is incredible but none of it is conjecture. It’s all easily verifiable with a few clicks on publicly available tax databases. And the governor hasn’t denied any of this. He refuses to answer questions about it. 

Perhaps he believes it’s just his right to make things easier for wealthy people and harder for ordinary families. Perhaps he is proud of giving himself and his wealthy friends millions that could fund our public schools or provide tax relief to working people across this state. 

Perhaps we should just take him at his word. After all, he warned us what his approach would be when he proclaimed, “the fairest tax is the one you pay and the one I don’t.” 

One thing is for sure. As Montana faces another historic budget surplus, Gianforte cannot be given another opportunity to make things even worse for the rest of us. He’s promised to stack the deck for people like him. We should believe him. 

Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive from Kalispell, is the Democratic candidate for governor.