1. When it comes to providing state-funded financial aid for college students, Montana ranks 49th in the nation. Do you think the state should contribute more toward higher education funding or should it be the responsibility of the student to fund their own college education?
Montana provides for approximately 38% of the cost of higher education. As late as the early 1990’s, Montana funded about 75% of the cost. Today, many Montana high school graduates opt out of either a traditional college education or a career technical education due to the prospect of student loan debt. Montana needs to work toward promoting a two-year career technical school education by repaying most if not all of the tuition. For those students attending a traditional college or university, Montana should cover a large majority of tuition costs for lower income families and less as incomes rise.
2. Do you think the state of Montana should increase state funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?
Hundreds of Montana families and scores of our veterans do not have access to adequate and/or affordable housing. A coronavirus-generated economic downturn could significantly increase the number of our residents falling into that situation. With a potential hit to our state budget in the coming year, it will be very difficult to say yes to increase state funding for affordable housing. Solving the affordable housing issue will require local communities, nonprofits, private foundations and the state to pool their financial resources into an affordable housing trust fund.
3. What, in your view, is the largest issue with management of Montana’s public lands? What should be done about it?
Even though Montana has had relatively mild fire seasons since 2017, the issue of forest health has not gone away. Montana, under the direction of Governor Bullock, utilized the 2014 and 2019 Farm Bills to expand the Good Neighbor Authority, a state and federal coordinated project, to promote timber harvest projects on federal lands. This program has created good-paying jobs and provided timber to Montana sawmills. However, in light of warming temperatures and the increasing loading of dead fuels on forest floors we must move forward with a prescribed burning program. Historically, our forests are fire dependent.
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