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 most equitable way to balance the state budget is an income tax increase. This tax is somewhat progressive, taking more from those with greater resources beyond basic survival needs. I am also open to exploring increased or new taxes on “luxury” goods and services. Subsidies/tax advantages for economic sectors that do not benefit the general population should be questioned. I believe in taxes to support social structures and services that benefit us all and would want to hear details before deciding any services should be cut. I see no public benefit in moving social service costs to local governments.
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.
The young people of Montana are the future of the state. Investment in them is the best way to ensure this future is bright. Many jobs require at least two years of higher education/work skill training, and providing opportunities in-state increases the likelihood that young people will stay and work in Montana. Because of this, the state should support at least half the cost of higher education for local students.
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?
HD85 is composed of small towns and rural areas, so this question does not strictly apply here. However, affordable housing is an issue of importance throughout the state and the country. It is best addressed by building additional low-cost housing in the more urban areas, where jobs are concentrated. Existing subsidies for such housing should be continued and creative financing should be encouraged. We should also work to preserve adjacent open land for the benefit of all; water quality, recreation opportunities, agriculture, and responsible resource extraction compatible with these values are essential economic contributions of open and public lands.
What role should state government play in managing federal public lands, and how should those activities be paid for?
Federal public lands belong to all USA citizens; for their primary benefit at their expense, these lands should be managed by the federal government. Our local economies benefit greatly from amenities and resources on these lands managed at federal taxpayer expense. Local/state entities properly have concerns and expertise relevant to locations and resources where their constituents live, and from which they reasonably expect to benefit. Input from these entities and populations should be respected in management of local federal public lands. This should not require significant state funding. Costs could possibly be defrayed by user fees collected within the state.
What do you regard as the most urgent problem facing Montana, and how do you propose dealing with it?
To preserve our core western life values and amenities in an evolving, increasingly interdependent world, we most need flexibility and respectful dialogue to find our way forward as Montanans. Listening, questioning, deciding together on best practices are essentials which I propose and believe will serve us as we face urgent needs to support decent life and livelihood options, present and future, in Montana. Such a future requires affordable health care for all that respects individual choice, affordable quality education/skills training, and sustainable agriculture and public and open land management for our long-term common benefit and various uses.