Opportunities for Greater Bipartisanship
What big problems facing Montana could be solved if policymakers focused on their common ground?
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” – Frederick Douglass
The gulf between Republicans and Democrats is wider than it’s ever been. Montanans have historically been immune to some of the hyper partisanship seen on the national stage, but this legislative session increasingly saw votes come down to party lines and partisan rhetoric intensify.
While it’s much simpler to operate in a world of red vs. blue political vitriol, what big problems facing Montana could be solved if policymakers instead focused on their common ground?
From my perspective, here are three important issues that present opportunities for greater bipartisanship:
- Property Taxes
We’ve heard a lot this session from both sides of the aisle about the need for property tax relief. Ultimately, the responsibility for property tax relief will fall on governments to embrace budget discipline. Common ground needs to be built around the virtues of fiscal conservatism. Limiting government growth to no more than the growth of the economy, as measured by population plus inflation, is a common-sense fiscal benchmark that both parties ought to be able to get behind.
- Affordable Housing
This year we saw several proposals from lawmakers of both parties to eliminate harmful regulations and boost the supply of affordable housing in Montana’s growing cities. This policy approach seems to cut across the partisan divide in a huge way and deserves further bipartisan collaboration.
- Healthcare Access
Lawmakers unanimously came together to expand telehealth access by eliminating unnecessary regulations. Could this unity continue when addressing other regulations that hold back healthcare access? Lawmakers may be able to find areas of agreement around reducing barriers to medical licensing and expanding the ability of current practitioners to care for their patients.
. . .
What really drives up property taxes?
- Rep. Jones delivered an excellent breakdown of the true drivers of high property taxes: the growth of local governments.
“Property tax growth that exceeds the average annual growth rate of the Montana economy (5%) is difficult to sustain, especially in rural areas that are often declining in population and taxable value, as this represents government growth that is faster than the local economy’s ability to support it.”
We think Rep. Jones hits the nail on the head here: “to truly control the growth of property tax spending, local governments must be committed to budget discipline. Moreover, citizens must exhibit that same discipline when it comes to approving voted mill levies.”
- A bill that increases the tax credit people can claim by giving to a scholarship program for private or public schools from $150 to $200,000 passed the Legislature on Tuesday.
Simply put, this measure will provide support for students to get a better education. This is a great way to allow charitable people and organizations to help students succeed, especially those who are disadvantaged financially. The sponsor noted that currently 22 percent of scholarships go to minority students.
- Four Frontier-endorsed bills now await the Governor’s signature before becoming law. These proposals were integral to the three pillars we’ve outlined for a strong economic recovery: limiting the growth of government, reforming our broken healthcare system and protecting individual rights.
HB 158: Directs a commission to study the regulations waived during the COVID emergency and recommend legislation to repeal regulations which are not necessary to keep.
HB 479: Updates to Montana’s data privacy protections, extending warrant requirements for data stored online in the cloud and ensuring against the mass collection of data not directly related to a search.
HB 231: Repeals a majority of Montana’s Certificate of Need (CON) program. Under the CON program, the government gets to determine if a new health care business is “needed”, a process that has been shown to limit healthcare competition which could give Montanans more choices and lower costs.
SB 374: Will allow medical providers to dispense medicine. Montana is one of only five states that prohibits this practice, requiring patients to make an additional trip to the pharmacy.