The June 8 primary election will see Dan Pickar and Jon Sonju each seeking the Republican nomination to run in November for Kalispell's Senate District 4 seat. The Missoulian sent the candidates a questionnaire about issues likely to be of concern to voters this year. Here are their responses, some of which may have been edited and consolidated for space:
What's your solution to the looming state budget problem?
Pickar: Cut funds to areas that encourage and show wasteful spending. Montana had a surplus, and we can re-achieve this by fiscal responsibility.
Sonju: It starts by reducing government and by promoting our businesses in the state. Our government has grown tremendously in the past six years, a fact I do not agree with and did not support. We all have had to cut back either at home or in our businesses, and government needs to cut back, too. There are many areas in government that can be privatized that will in turn save taxpayers' dollars; one example is data storage.
Is DUI a concern, and if so, what can the Legislature do about it?
Pickar: DUIs are absolutely a concern. The most important thing is education. Students should be taught the effects of alcohol, and the consequences that DUIs can have on their families and others. There are many solutions to avoiding DUIs, including designated drivers. Multiple-DUI offenders should receive stiff punishment and serve jail time. The Legislature should pass a law to add DUI education in classrooms and campuses, and should make harsher punishment for multiple offenders.
Sonju: DUI laws are always a concern. We need to strengthen the laws especially for repeat offenders. It is unacceptable to have so many repeat offenders getting multiple DUIs.
Are property taxes a concern, and if so, what can the Legislature do about it?
Pickar: Property taxes are a concern. Montana has some of the highest rates in the country. Montana's Legislature could lower property taxes and get revenue from other sources. For example, tourism brings 10 million visitors annually; a tax implemented somewhere in this area could generate the revenue needed, and disperse the tax burden to everyone that uses our state, while also providing some relief for landowners.
Sonju: Property taxes are always a concern, especially in this economy. The last reappraisal was not fair to every property owner, and taxes did go up on some properties. There will be bills next session to address some of the issues with the last reappraisal. In surplus years, there needs to be emphasis on providing permanent property tax relief, rather than funding the growth of government and adding more state employees.
Reporter Michael Jamison can be reached at (406) 862-0324 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.