1. Do you support restructuring Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to provide more attention/revenue to non-hunting wildlife and recreation?
Even though recreation has been the focus of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a couple of factors will influence some recreation-oriented restructuring within the agency. The recently approved Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will allow FWP to make grants to local communities for swimming pools, trails and parks. LWCF will also provide money for conservation easements protecting non-game species. The Habitat Montana program has conserved range and forest land allowing FWP non-game biologists to enhance the expansion of those species. The Legislature must determine how non-game water and land users can financially help our recreation program.
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?
During legislative sessions, the Capitol is a virus petri dish. So it is critical that we get it right when it comes to protecting Montana citizens, legislative staff and lawmakers. If current COVID-19 conditions continue, we should rethink an in-person session. If conditions improve, I would support a hybrid session. Some days in person, some remotely. If current conditions continue, I will wear a mask. No matter how the 2021 session is organized, I will continue to give my constituents 110% just as I have in my previous three sessions.
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?
Our family and other Montana farmers have economically experienced the impact of climate change. Our fire seasons tell us the same. Montana must set significant carbon reduction goals. Then businesses can decide how to reduce their carbon output. Subsidies are not an effective or efficient way to reduce emissions and shift financial costs to individual taxpayers. Policies adopted by the Legislature, the Public Service Commission and markets can expand the growth of clean energy without subsidies. Our climate will continue to change and the Legislature needs to provide leadership on how Montana adapts to change and limit its impact.
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?
The Montana Chamber of Commerce and Montana Department of Commerce agree that Montana will see a significant number of people retire in the next five years. The pandemic job losses aside, Montana will still need to expand its workforce. That means the Missoula College and the main UM campus will need to expand programs to supply that workforce. Since the 1990s the Legislature has not adequately funded our workforce supply chain. The Legislature needs to step up funding or Montana businesses will lose. Montana high school students are leery of taking student loans so additional financial aid is necessary.
5. What do you see as the No. 1 issue facing your constituents and how will you address it?
Many of my constituents have either lost their jobs or had their work hours cut, and/or lost months of employment resulting in financial hardship. Some jobs will not come back. Montana must expand job skill development by funding our technical schools and higher educational institutions. Montana should work with nonprofits to develop an affordable housing program assisting those losing shelter. The Legislature can lessen the financial impacts of child care by establishing a voluntary, state-wide Pre-Kindergarten and an affordable, quality day care program. Finally Montana must continue our Medicaid expansion offering to cover those who have lost employer insurance.
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