What is your strategy to balance the state budget? What taxes, if any, would you be willing to increase? What services, if any, would you be willing to cut? Should social service costs move to local governments?
The current general fund revenue outlook for the next several years is projected to cover projected general fund expenditures including inflation and present law adjustments. Thus, tax increases are not necessary to meet our current budget demands. Should we need additional revenue, there are still savings that can be derived from reducing Helena-based general government spending and growth. The continued growth in Medicaid will put stress on the state budget. However, that growth can be controlled by placing work requirements on single, able-bodied adults without children who are using Medicaid.
In 1992, the state paid 76 percent of the cost of public higher education in Montana. In 2018, the state is paying 38 percent. What portion of public higher education should the state fund, and why? Should it be closer to 38 percent or 76 percent? Please be specific.
Since 1992, state support for higher education has grown at a 3 percent average annual rate. During that same time, the budget for higher education has grown at a 5.8 percent annual rate of increase. The state has been steadily increasing support for higher education. However, the budget for higher education, which is not controlled by the Legislature but by the Board of Regents, has grown at a much faster rate. The state’s support of higher education cannot keep up with the spending growth in the Montana University System.
How do you plan to address the housing affordability crisis in Missoula and other urban areas in Montana where job growth is attracting more people but housing scarcity is driving up rents and home prices and wages are not keeping pace?
Housing affordability is a local government issue. Cities like Missoula and Bozeman that have housing affordability issues have established excessive regulations and rules on new development, which disincentivizes new supply thus increasing the cost of housing. Without an increase in the supply of new houses, prices will continue to increase. The state can provide low-interest loans to new homeowners but the majority of the housing affordability problem will need to be solved by local governments who created their affordability problems in the first place.
What role should state government play in managing federal public lands, and how should those activities be paid for?
Federal lands should remain in the ownership of the federal government. The management of these lands needs to include and give more authority to state and local governments who can make better decisions on land management than bureaucrats sitting in Washington, D.C.
What do you regard as the most urgent problem facing Montana, and how do you propose dealing with it?
Special interest groups continue to try to eliminate our natural resource economy in Montana. If Montana is going to continue to fund essential services, we will need a diversified economy and not one that primarily relies on tourism.