1. Do you support restructuring Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to provide more attention/revenue to non-hunting wildlife and recreation?
Before bringing an issue such as this to the Montana Legislature for possible consideration, an in-depth study including public input must be completed by the assigned interim committee. To my knowledge, that has not happened. For this reason it is premature to consider restructuring legislation. In addition, there may be some concerns about possible decreased revenue due to the impact of COVID-19. In 2016 sportsmen/women fish and game licensing fees provided about 70% of the FWP budget and commercial users also pay fees. New revenue streams from non-fish/game users may need to be explored.
2. How do you plan to serve in the Legislature during a pandemic? Will you wear a mask while in the Capitol? Do you think the session should be held in-person, remotely or some mix of the two?
As the elected representative for HD 97, I will proudly serve the good people of the great state of Montana following health directives and protocols as I do my part to slow the spread of COVID-19. To mask or not to mask should never be political. When I enter the Montana Capitol I will be wearing a mask unless the protocol has changed. In May, 26 members of the Mississippi State Legislature fell ill with COVID-19, which included the lieutenant governor. I believe the 2021 session will need to use a hybrid model for attendance.
3. Climate change caused by human emission of fossil fuels has affected Montana, including an increase in average annual temperature and shifts in growing seasons for farmers. Should Montana offer subsidies for clean energy creation? Do you support or oppose ending tax breaks and subsidies for coal, oil and gas production?
A variety of clean energy cost-reducing incentives are readily available to Montana residents, businesses and developers. See deq.mt.gov for tax incentive programs in MCA. The focus should be on economically efficient strategies for Montanans to reduce emissions and helping the public and working families adapt to inevitable climate change (Montana Climate Solutions Council). I support ending coal subsidies because coal production is down and is supplying the Far East. I do not support ending oil and gas production incentives. The PSC needs to get involved. Clean energy needs to be promoted/incentivized and will create hundreds of jobs.
4. The University of Montana has seen a 40% enrollment drop since 2010, and now is struck with the effects of the pandemic. What, if anything, should be done to help the university?
In the fall of 2011, UM had its highest ever enrollment of 15,669 students. As the enrollment dropped, previous administrations failed to rectify the faculty/staff to student ratio. Over the past quarter century, the state’s contribution has dropped from 76% to 38% of the unrestricted budget. Montana takes its place in the bottom 10% of revenue per student. The Legislature has enacted tuition freezes, which helps students but affects revenue. UM has gone after research money/other sources, students have gone into debt, and the Legislature must make sure UM is adequately funded because education is the great equalizer.
5. What do you see as the No. 1 issue facing your constituents and how will you address it?
Attainable and affordable housing is in short supply. Increased demand and delays in closing for all tiers of housing are causing people to live in motels, tents, campers and with friends or relatives until a rental opens up or a house closing happens. During the 2019 Montana legislative session, HB 16 was passed, which directs $15 million from the permanent Coal Tax Trust Fund to a loan program for low- and moderate-income multifamily housing developments primarily in more rural communities. The 2021 Legislature should look at similar state funding for housing, which also focuses on needs in urban areas.
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