It happens every time properties are re-assessed for their worth – wealthy landowners complain it is unfair. For some reason, it made front page of today’s Missoulian.

In a fine piece of puff journalism, we learn of poor poor Donald and Georgia Forney who are worried about whether the government is going to take away their 120 feet of lakeshore on Skidoo Bay. See, they can’t afford all the real estate that they have accumulated.

There’s the farm Forney owns near Great Falls. I don’t think we know how big the farm is, nor how much it is worth. Then there’s the choice home on Flathead Lake which is now worth more than $1 million. That’s the one the family has owned since 1949 and feels entitled to keep. Add them together and I suspect the Forney’s are in the wealthiest 5% of Montanans. Very simply, they own more than most of us ever will.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? If your wage or salary goes up, you pay more tax. If your investments go up in price, you owe more tax. If you buy a fancy Italian car, then you pay more tax on the wealth inherent in that asset. But, if your Daddy gives you a nice little farm, well … that’s different.

There’s one quote that really ticks me off in the Missoulian article:

I understand part of the problem is that affluent out-of-state people have been buying lakeshore and driving the market. … But it’s killing native Montanans like us.

That’s just plain B.S. It doesn’t matter who is pushing property values higher, nor who owns the property. It will always be the current landowner who is getting wealthier, through no fault of their own. They can use the land as a more valuable asset to borrow money and, say, start or support a small business. They could continue to farm it and gain from its inherent productivity. They can split the land in 2 and sell one part. Or, they can take a reverse mortgage to draw down slightly the value of the asset.

But, for crying out loud, pay your fair share of taxes. You can afford it.