In the People's Interest

Josh Seckinger: Property Tax Madness

Downtown Bozeman; image from Montana Department of Commerce

Over the past few weeks, property owners received their second property tax bill. This is an unfortunate, unnecessary, and unaffordable reminder of the record tax increases last fall due to inaction at every level of our far-right-controlled state legislature and a governor looking out for his wealthy friends. 

The Republican Party–claiming to despise any and all taxes–is seemingly on board with 20+% increases statewide for property owners, and they knew it was coming. The Department of Revenue warned the Governor’s Office and the Legislature in November 2022 and suggested how to offset the looming increase. 

Governor Gianforte’s insistence that the counties and cities have brought this upon themselves is ridiculous and has been rebuked by elected officials from both parties across the state. The lack of substantive relief from the Governor’s Office or the state legislature is astonishing. The Governor’s current remedy is inadequate and patronizing, akin to slapping a bandage on a shotgun wound. The Governor is attempting to trick the public into thinking he is trying to help. Make no mistake, the Governor sued to make sure you had to pay your new tax bill in full. County commissioners statewide are making sure their constituents know this. 

The undue burden on property owners will inevitably cost families their homes and further intensify our state’s ongoing housing crisis. For those who do not own property, your rent will increase. 

Where is all this money going?

You’re probably thinking how are we seeing such significant increases when Montana is growing so quickly? Even with the need for additional revenues to provide essential government services to a larger population, new residents join longtime Montanans in paying income and property taxes, too. Add that to the property taxes on a 59% increase in value for the median residential Gallatin County property, Republicans in Helena should have some decent money to run our state.

Instead, they gave Montana’s wealthiest people and largest businesses colossal tax cuts

So the question is, how do we fix it?

There are two numbers you should know: 0.41 and 0.33. A 0.41 percentage-point reduction in residential property taxes would have resulted in a ‘revenue-neutral’ property tax rate, so your property taxes would have remained the same. This would have been offset by a .33 percentage-point increase on residences with taxable value over $1.5 million and all commercial property, which is taxed at the residential rate times a multiplier. Currently, the multiplier is 1.4. We could have avoided this mess if the multiplier had been increased to 1.77. 

The math is just details. The important part is that it is time for Montana’s wealthiest to pay their fair share and that changing these numbers would still result in a budget surplus. 

Last summer, Democrats asked the Governor to call a one-day special session to pass this two-page bill. As you can guess, the Governor denied the request. He did not want to spend the money to fund a special session. 

I had heard the Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Ryan Busse and Raph Graybill, say that this tax increase could be resolved in an hour, and to be frank, I didn’t quite believe them. So, I reached out to them and asked for an explanation. The response I received was what you have read above, and I will tell you this: it can be done in an hour, if we elect the right people. 

Please share this information with your friends and neighbors. With your support and theirs, we can start putting our state back on a better trajectory during the primary in June and the election in November.

Josh Seckinger is a longtime Gallatin Valley resident, fly fishing guide, and a Democratic Candidate for House District 62. Visit to learn more about Josh and his vision for Montana.