Letter to the Editor

My name is Brandon Ler. I am the seated Representative for House District 35, which covers all of Richland County. Due to recent redistricting, I am running for House District 33, which covers Richland County south of Highway 200 and all of Dawson County.

As a State Legislator, the topic I receive the most questions about is by far property taxes. Why are Montanans paying so much in property taxes? What’s behind the recent property tax hikes?

I believe that property taxes have gone up because of Montana’s lack of natural resource development in recent years. Montana is abundant in natural resources and each of these resources plays a fundamental role in the State’s economy. A good piece of the taxes collected from the production of coal, timber, oil and natural gas is used to fund key budget items throughout our state, like county infrastructure and local schools. So what happens when production in these industries decline or stop all together? The burden for the current budget, and planning for future needs, is shifted to other taxable entities and individuals.

While natural resource production has declined, the State’s budget has not. In fact, with the growing number of new residents, there is an increased demand for more school funding, road maintenance, and improvements to other infrastructure. The increases we’ve seen in property taxes can be directly linked to the decrease we’re seeing in natural resource development, and loss of taxable land we’re seeing in our state.

A diverse mix of industry is essential to a strong tax base, and by benching some of our strongest players through never ending litigation for permitting, restricting logging, and shuttering oil and gas production, we’re guaranteeing an increase in the demand on other tax paying entities, including our friends and neighbors. The impact of these actions is far reaching, and the increase in property taxes is only part of the impact these reductions have had on Montana taxpayers.

While natural resource development is only one part of a complicated answer, I will continue to support the development of our resources in Montana, and other proposals that will keep your taxes lower.

Representative Brandon Ler, House District 35, 406-480-5687


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