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Montana’s Inflation: A review of 2023 and forecasts for 2024



Billings, Montana – Many people are thinking ahead to 2023 as the new year draws near. This year, inflation and price fluctuations were one thing that everyone of the country saw in common.

“As I think of the economy in 2023, it’s kind of a choose-your-own-adventure,” said Darrell Ehrlick, the editor-in-chief for the Daily Montanan, on Saturday.

Things appear to be getting back to normal after a year of pricing fluctuations.

“We saw things like grocery items come back down,” Ehrlick said. “Eggs, they’re back down.”

The average consumer price inflation in 2023 was 4.1%, but it dropped to 3.8% in 2024, according to the Consumer Price Index’s inflation estimate. 2022 saw a peak of 9.59%.

“We kind of got some things under control with inflation,” Ehrlick said.

It will be interesting to see what the prices amount to, since 2024 is an election year.

“It will be interesting to see what happens,” Ehrlick said.

Ehrlick has covered a lot of inflation-related stories in Montana this year for the Daily Montanan.

“I think we were all surprised at how much people were talking about property taxes,” Ehrlick said. “What I see as a journalist is that there’s a real disconnect. People are saying, and maybe national reporting is, the economy’s great. But I think when you’re maybe in the field level, there’s a disconnect there. I think that probably those are good hints as to where the stories will take us in 2024. It’s trying to bridge that chasm.”

In Montana, the hottest subjects are rising energy prices, affordable housing, and property taxes.

“For Montanans, residential property taxes and housing. And then the other thing that I think you have to marry with that is energy costs,” Ehrlick said. “We saw large rate increases at the Public Service Commission. We saw both an electric and gas increase. But this property tax issue in Montana, especially, has a really long tail.”

He has firsthand experience with some of the exorbitant costs that grocery shop patrons must pay.

“I am addicted to Diet Pepsi, so I think that is stubbornly high,” Ehrlick said.

Ehrlick is a homeowner, so he can personally attest to some of the problems with property taxes.

“I think everybody’s so focused on the presidential election or even the Tester election. I think if we’re looking at Montana, what’s going to happen here in the Treasure State, I think that’s going to be really fought at the local legislative level,” Ehrlick said.

However, he is also placing himself in the position of lawmaker.

“I’m sympathetic because I ask, what can they do? (The legislators are) not pouring concrete or framing houses. So, what do you do?” Ehrlick said.

Ehrlick is excited for the discussions that will take place in the upcoming year.

“There’s going to be a lot of talk about property taxes, there’s going to be a lot of talk about Medicaid,” Ehrlick said. “I think that there is going to be an overall national conversation about inflation, about wage.”

He is currently enjoying the low prices we will attain by the end of 2023.

“If people’s checkbooks feel comfortable to them, they’re probably going to be happy,” Ehrlick said. “Regardless of some of the other stuff that’s going on in the world.”


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