Kathy Holland

President Abraham Lincoln said on March 2, 1839, “I believe it can be sustained because it does not increase the tax upon the ‘many poor,’ but upon the ‘wealthy few.’” As a lifelong Republican, I’m appalled at the actions our Legislature took in the 2023 session. The Republican party has lost its way; that became extremely apparent in this last legislative session.

For the past 30 years in Montana, if it appeared homeowners’ taxes would be raised due to appraisals, the Revenue Committee would notify legislators, Democrat and Republican, before the legislative session started and let them know so they could remedy this during the session and protect the people that make up this great state of Montana. In November of 2022, the legislature was notified homeowners’ taxes would be raised due to appraisals and, in some areas, it would significantly impact their finances.

The legislature, with a Republican majority, did nothing to help Montanans. Not only did they not address the known property tax increase coming, they then voted to lower Burlington Northern’s (among other mega corporations) taxes. BNSF is the second highest taxpayer in Montana, and now hard-working Montanan’s tax dollars are subsidizing Warren Buffet’s railroad, in which the stock (BRK.B) prices have soared by over $100 per share in the last year, and they outperformed their expected earnings in every quarter of the fiscal year 2023. BNSF does not need our charity while they continue to profit off the economic and physical devastation of my hometown and many other small towns.

My opponent would like us to believe our lack of natural resource development is to blame for higher taxes and this is not true. The 2023 Legislature directly lowered taxes for mines, Northwestern Energy, pipelines, and Burlington Northern and placed the burden on homeowners and our working class. This does not uphold Montana values of taking care of our people first.

It’s policies like these that take away the economic freedom of hard-working Montanans. Our natural resources are essential to a well-rounded economy, but natural resources alone cannot replace the people’s tax dollars the Republican Supermajority generously gave to BNSF, Northwestern Energy, and more. How can we talk about a healthy economy when food bank usage across my district is at an all-time high? The rich get richer, and my friends, family, and neighbors suffer from increased utility bills, ever-increasing grocery bills and housing costs, sky-high property taxes, and everything else that has been hit hard by inflation.

Montanans need relief now, not in some far-off future where we have developed more of our natural resources.

We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the 2.5 billion dollar surplus Montana had due to COVID-19 funds. We could have not only kept property taxes from rising state-wide, but we could have also invested in our failing educational and other infrastructure, ensuring that this generation would have the opportunity to build the economy from the ground up with small businesses and educational opportunities.

Instead, the money was wasted. To be fair, Governor Gianforte did refund Montanans $675, but not everyone was eligible, and renters are getting priced out of their rentals because the tax increase has had to be passed on to renters from their landlords. I’m not one to be sad about a tax refund, but in my household of 7, that’s about 2-3 weeks of groceries, and it could have gone to solving real problems happening right now; that money could have built my children a safe school to attend.

It seems unbelievable that my party, the Republicans, had this surplus and they decided to grow government, pass socialist policies, waste the money, and do the one thing they have constantly and consistently fought against - raising taxes on Montanans.

We all know that the Public Service Commission approved Northwestern Energy’s rate increase literally months after they got a tax break. We are hitting Montanans twice. It’s time for everyday Montanans to say enough is enough at the ballot box; after all, Helena works for us! We can hold our state government accountable for not acting in the best interest of the people who elected them.

I could never have imagined that Montana politics and that my very own Republican Party could come to this, but I cannot let this go. We are a strong people, and it’s time to remind Helena who they work for. Our property tax problem is due to nothing except the negligence of a Supermajority drunk on their power who forgot who put them there. Eastern Montana is my home; it is the gem of Montana.

I believe we need to elect people to serve our people in Helena and focus on what’s essential to all Montanans - public education, childcare, health care, farming and ranching, infrastructure, funding our counties so they serve their people, and supporting everyday Montanans.

This is true Republicanism as demonstrated by our 16th president when speaking about a wealth tax to prevent a wealthy elite in the above quote.

Kathy Holland is a Glendive Republican running for House District 33.