Wind turbines and a growing population are posing new issues of concern regarding Montana’s underground nuclear missile silos. As a consequence the Air Force is asking Congress for help, especially because of “towering wind turbines, which are growing in number and size and are edging closer to the sites each year,” reports the Associated Press (AP).

The Air Force wants Congress to pass legislation to create a 2-nautical-mile buffer zone around each site. Underground silos are located in Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

“…underground nuclear missile silos are rarely disturbed by more than the occasional wandering cow or floating spy balloon,” notes the AP.

In general the silos are “almost undetectable” located on private farmland, appearing as a small rectangular plot marked only by an antennae, chain-link fence and a flat 110,000 ton concrete silo blast door.

Increasingly, sometimes, stretching for miles, wind turbines tower in proximity, hundreds of feet high, with long, sweeping blades with “parts so large and long they dwarf the 18-wheeler flatbed trucks that transport them to new sites.” They pose a danger for military helicopter crews. “When an alarm triggers at a site, the UH-1 Huey crews fly in low and fast, often with security teams on board.” The turbines not only pose physical obstacles but create turbulence.

Some of the modern turbines have towers as tall as 650 feet, or nearly 200 meters, , “which is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.” Of the 450 sites, 46 are “severely” encroached upon, which the Air Force defines as having more than half of the routes to the launch site closed due to obstructions

Wind energy advocates are supportive of the restriction, according to AP.

Language to create a setback was included in the Senate version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, but would need to be negotiated into the House version of the bill.

But the service acknowledges the difficult position it is in. The farmers who have allowed it to use their lands for decades benefit from the income from the turbine leases, and the service does not want to appear to push back on environmental energy alternatives, they are nevertheless concerned about the safety for helicopter and nuclear security operations.”

The Center Square

Getting married – or divorced – was a more common reason for moving in 2022 than the year before while looking for better housing became less common, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau on why people move.

The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement asks respondents who lived in a different place the year before their primary reason for moving. The 20 specific reasons fall into four general categories: housing-related, family-related, employment-related, and other. 

The most often-cited general category for moving in 2022 was housing-related reasons, which accounted for 41.6% of movers, according to the survey. That’s similar to other recent years. 

A newer, larger or better place to live was the most common specific reason cited for moves in 2022 and in 2021. That was followed by establishing one’s own household. Even so, the percentage of movers reporting upgrades declined.

“This decline suggests reversal of a boom in housing demand that happened in 2020, early in the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the report. 

The share of movers seeking better housing increased from 14.6% in 2020 to 17.2% in 2021. It fell back to 14.4% in 2022, about the same as the 2020 pre-pandemic baseline. The share of movers who reported wanting a better neighborhood or less crime had a similar decline after a jump early in the pandemic, according to the report. 

Some 26.5% of movers reported family-related reasons, the second most often-cited general reason for moving in 2022 and in recent years. 

Family-related reasons include a change in marital status and establishing one’s own household, according to the report.

“An increase in the share of people who moved due to a change in marital status between 2021 and 2022 may be the result of people resuming plans they had put on pause during the height of the pandemic,” according to the report. “Many couples decided to postpone wedding ceremonies and large gatherings during COVID-19: an estimated 12% fewer marriages and divorces took place in 2020 than researchers expected.”

Employment-related reasons were reported 16.1% of the time, the first time since at least 2017 that moving for employment was not cited more often, according to the report. 

By Evelyn Pyburn

It’s been my observation that there is no tax that doesn’t eventually filter down to the individual citizen, and if they are a consumer, they are a taxpayer.

This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it just is. Businesses do not pay any kind of tax. While they may seem to pay them, in the end they have to pass them on in the price of their product to the consumer. If they don’t, they vanish as a business – they go broke, quit business, and cease to be a part of the picture. 

Taxes are not really paid on “tax day,” they are paid when the consumer purchases a product.

Taxes are consequential for businesses, only when they are looking for best locations in which to do business. But even then they are most consequential to the consumers and workers in the community, who benefit from the products, services, innovations and jobs that businesses bring.

There is no magic tax that saves the consumer.  There is only one way to lower taxes and that is for the government to spend less. Even if rich people pay higher rates, those tax inputs eventually reach the lowest rung of consumers in the prices they pay. 

It is especially vile when politicians attempt to dupe voters into believing that businesses are their enemy – that the individual’s taxes are high because businesses don’t pay their “fair share.” That is a favorite political mantra by political entities who do not want people to fully understand that the ONLY way to lower taxes is to lower government spending – bearing in mind that government has NOTHING that it doesn’t have to first take away from the citizens.

There are undoubtedly shifts in markets depending on what kinds of taxes are imposed. High property taxes reduce the number of homeowners. Rents increase.  High gasoline taxes reduce the amount citizens travel, but they pay them when they purchase groceries or products freighted into their community. High income taxes may encourage people to leave a community to work in a different state, which is also a price paid by the community. There may be some variance in every day transactions, but in the end, citizens are always the losers when taxes are high.

“Balanced” does not mean “lower,” which is how some people interpret the call for balanced taxes, and what the advocates want people to believe, and perhaps even believe themselves. But, not all that many people are fooled it seems, given a recent poll in which a majority of Montanans oppose adopting a statewide sales tax.

A sales tax has long been unpopular in Montana, where the basic taxes are income and property taxes. One has to believe it is because most people fully realize that it is really a call for more taxation, not property tax reduction, as is commonly claimed.

If Montana citizens ever had any misconceptions, they were given a clear lesson in the early-90s, when the last push for a sales tax was being made by many politicians. We needed a “three legged stool” for balance, we were being told. A sales tax would reduce property taxes, they said. And, while they were willing to put a cap on how high a sales tax might be – they were seen scrambling into the woodwork when it was recommended that a cap also be placed on property taxes and income taxes.

Montanans had routinely seen in neighboring states, how quickly and easily sales taxes were raised, and they were highly suspicious that the same was in store for Montana. When caps – especially on property taxes – were totally rejected in the state legislature, it made the truth of the situation clear. And, it is that which most Montanans see as the underlying reason for a sales tax.

If balance is what is being sought, then bring forth the legislation that would place real caps on all three taxes.

Caps on all taxation is actually the policy under which government – at all levels — should always function, if one looks at the realities of growth, which is usually the excuse given for more taxes. When a community grows it increases demand for goods, prices increase, and the number of pay checks increase. There are increases in every economic regard which should generate increased tax revenues at exactly the pace —  the set cap — that government should grow to keep pace with community growth.

That would keep government growth in check – which would also keep in check the power that government is able to exert over innocent citizens.

If one is really desirous of growing business and encouraging entrepreneurship, the Tax Foundation suggests that taxes on business to business transactions be exempt. The Tax Foundation warns that taxing business inputs results in “tax pyramiding” – taxing tax payments.

Business growth and a strong economy is a win- win for every one – even government, if indeed it is growing at a justifiable pace. Why should government grow if business isn’t growing or if citizens can’t make a living?

Adhering to policies that restrain growth in government with that of the economy would have saved the country from having any general sales taxes at all. It was during the Great Depression when citizens were starving, forced to abandon their property, leave their homes, and suffered a horrible plunge in the standard of living, that state governments decided that they shouldn’t have to endure the same suffering, and 44 of them enacted a general sales tax which burdened their citizens even more.

Montanans apparently decided not to do that. And, the case can truly be made the state has benefited from that decision ever since. There have been many studies and analysis of economic performance that have shown that states lacking one of the “three legs of the stool,” do better economically than they would with a “balanced” tax system. Those studies, in fact, demonstrate many times over that it is lower taxes that generate strong economies and better standards of living.

So let’s not scratch our heads in pretense that Montanans don’t know what is good for them. Most Montanans know EXACTLY what is good for them.

By Brett Rowland, The Center Square

The U.S. population is projected to reach a high of nearly 370 million in 2080 before falling back to 366 million in 2100, according to the latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

By 2100, the total U.S. resident population is projected to increase 9.7% from 2022. The Census Bureau projections provide possible scenarios of population change for the nation through the end of the century.

“In an ever-changing world, understanding population dynamics is crucial for shaping policies and planning resources,” said Sandra Johnson, a demographer at the Census Bureau.

The projections show slower growth than was previously expected.

“The U.S. has experienced notable shifts in the components of population change over the last five years,” she said. “Some of these, like the increases in mortality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to be short-term while others, including the declines in fertility that have persisted for decades, are likely to continue into the future. Incorporating additional years of data on births, deaths and international migration into our projections process resulted in a slower pace of population growth through 2060 than was previously projected.”

The Census Bureau projections show possible paths of population change based on assumptions about births, deaths and migration.

The 2023 projections include a main series (also known as the middle series) considered the most likely outcome of four assumptions, and three alternative immigration scenarios that show how the population might change under high, low and zero immigration assumptions.

* By 2100, the total population in the middle series is projected to reach 366 million compared to the projection for the high-immigration scenario, which puts the population at 435 million. The population for the middle series increases to a peak at 370 million in 2080 and then begins to decline, dropping to 366 million in 2100. The high-immigration scenario increases every year and is projected to reach 435 million by 2100.

* The low-immigration scenario is projected to peak at around 346 million in 2043 and decline thereafter, dropping to 319 million in 2100.

* Though largely illustrative, the zero-immigration scenario projects that population declines would start in 2024 in the complete absence of foreign-born immigration. The population in this scenario is projected to be 226 million in 2100, roughly 107 million lower than the 2022 estimate.

Immigration is projected to be the main driver of population growth under three of the four scenarios. The zero-immigration scenario is the exception. The projections show reduced fertility and an aging population result in natural decrease – more deaths than births – in all scenarios. This happens in 2038 in the main series, 2033 in the zero-immigration scenario, 2036 in the low-immigration scenario and in 2042 in the high-immigration scenario.

Small businesses continue to oppose onerous reporting burdens, reports the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) 1071 Small Business Lending Rule, commonly referred to as the CFPB 1071 rule, would add extra paperwork and small business lending complications. On October 18, NFIB announced that it will consider S.J. Res. 32, the Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval of the CFPB 1071 rule as an NFIB Key Vote for the 118th Congress. NFIB sent a letter to members of the United States Senate supporting the legislation.

“The CFPB 1071 rule would create onerous reporting requirements for both small business owners and the small financial institutions that lend to small businesses,” said Vice President of Federal Government Relations Kevin Kuhlman. “Small businesses are already inundated with federal paperwork when opening and running a business and applying for loans. They do not have the resources or staff to handle additional paperwork that this rule will require and neither do the small financial institutions they overwhelmingly use. This rule would not only have a negative impact on credit unions and small banks nationwide but also has the potential to limit small businesses’ access to credit.”

According to NFIB’s latest banking survey, 67% of small businesses use a small or regional financial institution for their credit needs with an additional 17% using a medium-sized institution.

This rule requires small businesses to file extra paperwork, including demographic information, when applying for a loan. That demographic paperwork information must be provided to CFPB, which could add new demographic requirements to small business lending, potentially threatening small business relationship banking and access to credit. Because small businesses generally use smaller community banks for their lending needs, this paperwork requirement is particularly burdensome for small banks.

S.J. Res. 32 would repeal the CFPB’s 1071 rule. S.J. Res. 32 passed the U.S. Senate 53-45 with every Senate Republican supporting the CRA, joined by Senators Sinema (I-AZ), Manchin (D-WV), Tester (D-MT), Hickenlooper (D-CO), and King (I-ME).

NFIB filed comments opposing the reporting burdens of the CFPB 1071 Rule in 2017 and urging Congress to repeal the rule. This is NFIB’s second Key Vote of the 118th Congress in the U.S. Senate.

The group that is seeking funding to advance a plan to build a passenger rail service through southern Montana, The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA), has been awarded a $150,000 grant to explore the feasibility of the project. The grant was awarded by  the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (PNWER) , a federal agency whose goal is to further high-performance rail across the region. This constitutes the largest planning grant received by BSPRA to-date.

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau awarded the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) a grant to continue advancing infrastructure development through the five-state Regional Infrastructure Accelerator for which it has oversight of Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

The public funds will finance the development of a feasibility and economic study. It will look for opportunities to “bundle” track improvement that could benefit passenger and freight rail service, and for possible development of transit near rail stations. 

It would analyze track from Sandpoint, ID, to Glendive, MT, along proposed Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha route to identify small to medium track improvement projects for enhanced freight and passenger rail service for rural communities and tribal nations.

By Evelyn Pyburn

While most people know about the Northern International Livestock Exposition, and realize it has to do with the showing and selling of livestock, and promotion of  agriculture, they may not know how much NILE is focused on young people and supporting them in their education as the future of agriculture.

On a Tuesday morning, there were 1700 kids – members of FFA and 4-H – at the NILE, to participate in horse judging and meat evaluation. They came from California, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and of course, Montana. The day before a similar number of youth participated in other judging contests including livestock evaluation, meat science, sales and service, etc.

They come because, not only is the program and competition good, explained Leah Clark, NILE General Manager, but it is the last event in which FFA members can hone their skills prior to the National FFA Convention, which will be held in Indiana in November. She noted that the ages of the participants begin at age 9, which is the age at which they can join 4-H.

 In addition to those competitions, 1,800 fourth graders, from all over southeastern Montana, attended NILE for a 2.5 hour ag education program and hands-on experience, which is held in six sessions over three days. In the program they attend stations on livestock, grains, seeds and soil, honey and other special aspects of agriculture. The program is a collaborative effort of the NILE, the Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Extension Service, with volunteers from such organizations as the Beef Council, Montana Cattle Women, etc.

The youngsters arrive at the NILE by bus or in cars loaded with family members, trucks hauling livestock, etc. Not only do the teachers and chaperones of the youngsters attend, but so do trainers and judges and some of the top livestock growers in the nation, as well as the administrators and sponsors of the NILE. The event garners lots of headlines across the nation, and puts Billings on the map as an epicenter for agriculture for the entire region, which gains much support from local business people, the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the Yellowstone County Commissioners, many of whom were volunteers in serving the kids’ breakfast early on Monday and Tuesday mornings at MetraPark.

NILE raises money for its “Agriculture Youth Program” to award scholarships to deserving youth, to providing internship experiences for college students, to help young cattlemen and women start their own herd.  One of the events through which funds are raised is the annual Stetsons & Stilettos. Over the past 20 years the NILE Foundation has contributed a million in scholarships.

“Supporting youth in agriculture is a key component of the NILE Foundation’s mission,” says Clark, explaining that NILE has fundraising events to fund scholarships for youth as they enter college. “It is critical that we continue to provide financial assistance to the next generation of agriculture leaders so that they may pursue higher education and reach their personal and professional goals.”

Starting them out early in life is what happens at the NILE. The opportunities get them involved and focused at a very young age, giving them a view of what is possible and a hand-up in getting them started.

Youngsters who are members of FFA or 4-H, between ages 12 to 16, may participate in the NILE Merit Heifer Program, which was developed to help them get a start in the beef cattle business. Selected recipients are awarded a heifer based on merit, future goals and ability to care for the animal. Each program participant will own their heifer jointly with NILE until the completion of the program, at which time NILE officials will sign off and the participant will take full ownership of the heifer. Participants are responsible for raising the heifer, arranging for her bred, and completing the record keeping procedure. They bring the animal back one year later as a bred replacement heifer for exhibit at the NILE Stock Show.

The purpose of the program is to help the participant start his or her own cattle herd.

The NILE partners with Bill Oliver Horsemanship for the NILE Colt Classic to teach training and horsemanship skills. It has a similar goal as the Merit Heifer Program of helping to launch youth into owning their first horse.

Among NILE programs is another that provides for internships through which 10 college students are selected to help in the production of the annual NILE Stock Show & Rodeo. Besides exposing them to the agriculture world it gives them hands-on experience in management, organization, media, marketing and communications.

CR Builders, 2101 Overland Ave, 59102, 254-1677, Donald Sterhan, general contractor

LL Flooring Inc, 2549 Enterprise Ave, 59102, 804-462-2000, Jessica Overstreet, retail sales

Precisionxproducts, 1245 Matador, 59105, 672-3487, Zachary Wallis, service

Schluter Short Term Rentals, 2334 Hyacinth Dr, 59105, 509-869-5777, Chad Schluter, real estate rental, 59105

AMR Solutions, 2103 Hillner Ln, 59101, 698-8570, Angela Reynolds, service

Paws and Ponies LLC, 7435 Bellrock Way, 59101, 672-2386, Frank Constance, service

Rougue Plumbing and Heating Inc, 623 S48th St Ste A, Grand Forks ND 58201, Ryan Olson, plumbing contractors

3311 Harlou Dr, 3311 Harlou Dr, 59102, 696-9304, Parker Peterson, real estate rental

Pioneer Sheds LLC, 4221 Kari Ln, 59102, 380-2375, Andrew Hersberger, retail sales

Hseyfert sewing, 484 Wheatstone Dr N, 59102, 633-3318, Holly Seyfert, service

RJJI Montana Inc, dba Billings Nursery Landscaping, 7900 South Frontage Rd, 59101, 656-2411, Judy Reimer, service

Burnin The Bone Smokehouse, 2595 Carlin St, Laurel 59044, 647-5143, Todd Payne, restaurants

Terwisscha Construction Inc, 1550 Willmar Ave SE, Willmar MN 56201, 320-235-7664, general contractors

Legacy Wingtsun, 3275 Conrad Rd #6, 59102, 699-3137, Keith Tipton/Jeff Andrews/Joshua Tolentino, service

Poly’s Place Coffee, 1704 Poly Dr, 59102, 672-1044, Diane Morledge-Hampton, retail sales

Monroe Art, PO Box 768, Browning MT 59417, 275-7599, Lauren Monroe Jr, retail sales

Unorthdoxmuse Productions, 319 Yellowstone Ave, 59101, 861-1174, Amy Mcomber, retail sales

The Carpenters Creation, 1032 Alpine Ave, Cody WY 82414, 512-698-3160, Laura Carpenter, retail sales

Hunt Energy LLC, 4005 1st Ave S, 59101, 245-1150, Dean Erickson, service

Prestige Worldwide Comics and Collectibles, 928 Broadwater Ave – Ste 105, 59102, 384-3552, Michael Oxford, retail sales

Holly Folk, 1326 Yellowstone River Rd, 59105, 855-8075, Morgan Hofmann, retail sales

Golden H LLC, 1813 Waterwood Dr, Laurel 59044, 321-1550, Brady Wiggs, general contractor

Montana Peaks Insurance Agency LLC, 2450 Tara Ln, Worden 59088, 320-0160, Danielle Petersen, insurance

Kampe Construction, 428 Greenspring Pl, 59102, 208-404-8699, Kenneth Kampe, general contractor

Keep It Alive Antiques and Collectibles, 928 Broadwater Ave – Ste 105, 598-7692, Sean Osborne, retail sales

Premier Home Inspection LLC, 38 Buckboard Rd, Park City 59063, 698-2875, service

Roadside Recovery of Montana, 7900 King Ave West, 59106, 661-1028, Robert Dalton, service

Ductbusters Duct Cleaning, 1042 Howard Ave, 59102, 598-6216, Jacob Ayers, service

Swift Construction, 3020 S 65th St W, 59106, 690-5710, James Swift, general contractor

Pops Tots, 7710 Lewis Ave, 59106, 834-1767, Ronald Mylar, restaurants

Daltons Prairie Paths Taxi & Shuttle, 621 1st Ave, Custer 59024, 697-5205, Bryce Dalton, service

Bakken Tree Service, 1134 ½ Bench Blvd, 59105, 598-8713, Michael Bakken, service

Scott’s Installation and Remodel, 1216 Matadore Ave, 59105, 596-1014, Scott Dedmore, general contractor

White Pine Construction LLC, 1717 Avenue C, 59102, 876-1475, Davis Brock, general contractor

Benny’s, 516 S 30th St, 59101, 647-7268, Benito Charles, restaurants

Newton Construction & Landscaping, 302 Jackson St #5, 59101, 371-3466, Xavier Figg, general contractor

Chipolte Mexican Grill #5076, 548 Main St, restaurants

Scott Properties LLC, 3955 Trailwood Dr, 59106, 670-1144, Steve Scott, real estate rental

Out of Square MT, 2008 Beverley Hill Blvd, 59102, 208-6682, Daniel Nelson, retail sales

Mazen LLC, 1744 Canary Ave, 59101, 855-8137, Robi Rossol, general contractor

Trewhella Consulting, 3390 Canyon Dr E5, 59102, 670-3097, James Trewhella, service

Echo Canyon Construction LLC, 7817 Molt Rd, 59106, 656-0570, Travis Fears, general contractor

Noble Operations, 2511 Clark Ave, 59102, 927-9401, Chad Noble, service

Addy Rose Salon & Studios, 805 24th St W #5, 59102, n/a, Keshia Wegner, service

Consulting Minds, 2110 Overland Ave #121, 59102, 534-4880, Connie Brown, service

Mike Wilhelm Electric, 4342 Rangeview Dr, 59106, 580-0438, Mike Wilhelm, electrical contractors

Caddy Cuts Construction, 432 Hillview Ln, 59101, 591-4705, Jayde Mikkelson, general contractor

Craftsman-Robert Murphy, 1526 Avenue F, 59102, 352-398-3964, Robert Murphy, service

Weetreehomesllc, 3930 2nd Ave S, 59101, 850-1249, Brian Rathay, general contractor

Rollhouse Bakery LLC, 819 S 33rd St, 59101, 697-1196, Jennifer Keller, retail sales

Z.O.D., 135 Hemlock Dr, 59101, 619-905-4050, Zachary Barnes, general contractor

J Houlihan Construction LLC, 3541 Granger Ave WY, 59102, 697-3768, Jacob Houlihan, general contractor

Big Sky Brats, 1009 Reading Circle, Laurel 59044, 605-295-0751, Jeremy Unruh, restaurants

Central Avenue Holdings LLC, 220 McLeod, Big Timber 59011, 932-5000, John Holifield, general contractor

Flawless Frame LLC, 3307 Grand Ste 201, 59102, 696-3420, Jennifer Fowler, service

Jewel Project Management and Design Consulting, 1968 Lakehills Dr, 59105, 670-6958, Deborah Greene, service

Legacy Counseling LLC, 208 N Broadway #423, 59101, 896-8427, Emily Smith, service

Dave’s Hot Chicken, 1020 Shiloh Crossing Blvd, 59102, 781-733-6832, Benjamin Quinlan, restaurants

New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC dba AT&T Mobility, 644 Broadwater Ave, 59101, 561-627-3365, Frank Maxwell, service

Montana Meal Prep, 487 S 44th W #5101, 59106, 890-4553, Kalen Jongeling, retail sales

42 West LLC, 6170 Elysian Rd Unit 103, 59101, 855-0822, Tiffany Deavers/Dr Michael Roberts, service

Thomas White, 2951 Custer Ave, 59102, 647-8906, Thomas White, general contractor

Milan Laser Hair Removal, 820 Shiloh Crossing Blvd Ste C, 59102, 402-306-6298, Milan Laser Corporate LLC, service

Farmgrounds Coffee Company LLC, 5623 Grand Ave, 59106, 698-5049, Jacob $ Douglas Kramer, restaurants

AAASTUC,CO LLC, 2492 Petersen Dr, Cheyenne WY 82009, 307-763-9748, Tanya Wunder, service

Trulock, 238 Pueblo Dr, 59102, 384-1274, Richard Stadler, service

Blown’ Snow Inc dba Snow Squad, 2170 Shackleford Ln, 59101, 743-9900, Tyler & Beth Hollenbeck, service

Corie May Creations, 2601 Wyoming Ave, 59102, 206-6462, Corrina Nagel, retail sales

John C Murphy DDS MSD, 949 Broadwater Sq, 59102, 259-2910, John C Murphy, dentist

Clayton Cleaning & Maintenance, 386 Westchester SQ S Apt 1, 59105, 861-6938, Joseph Clayton, service

Little Rad Dudes, 1503 13th St W, 59102, 200-4933, Kalee Gontarek, retail sales

The National Association of Realtors reports that single-family existing-home sales prices rose in 82 percent of  metro areas – 182 of 221 – in the third quarter, up from 58 percent in the previous quarter. The national median single-family existing-home price grew 2.2% from one year ago to $406,900.

The monthly mortgage payment on a typical, existing single-family home with a 20 percent down payment was $2,192 – up 19.2% from a year ago.

Twenty-five markets (11%) experienced double-digit annual price appreciation (up from 5% in the prior quarter).

By Chris Woodward, The Center Square

Mountain states rank among the “most free” in North America, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute.

Montana tied as the sixth most free state in the nation.

The Canadian think tank employs 10 variables for its Economic Freedom of North America 2023 reports and scores states based on categories such as government spending, taxes, labor market freedom, legal system and property rights, sound money, and freedom to trade internationally.

“Individuals have economic freedom when (a) property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and (b) they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others,” the Fraser Institute says in its latest report, citing a definition from the 1970s by then Fraser Institute-authors James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, and Walter Block. “Thus, an index of economic freedom should measure the extent to which rightly acquired property is protected and individuals are engaged in voluntary transactions.”

Idaho came in fourth overall in North America for economic freedom and had the highest ranking of all the mountain states, scoring 8.05 out of 10. The Gem State graded well in government spending, labor market freedom, and sound money categories.

Montana tied for sixth with Utah, due in part to high marks on taxes and sound money, as well as Utah’s performance in labor market freedom and sound money.

Wyoming ranks 13th, followed by Colorado (15th) and Nevada (16th). New Mexico and Arizona came in 41st and 42nd, respectively.

The report  is based on 2021, because that year has “the most recent available comprehensive data,” according to the think tank.