The June 8 primary election will see Brian Schutt and Dane Clark each seeking the Democratic nomination to run in November for House District 8 in the Flathead Valley. The Missoulian sent both a questionnaire about issues likely to be of concern to voters this year. Here are their responses, some of which may have been edited and consolidated for space:
What's your solution to our looming state budget problem?
Schutt: There are several concrete steps that can be taken. Gov. Schweitzer's plan for re-importing prescription drugs from Canada addresses a large part of our budget problem, that of health care costs. Statutory appropriations need to be trimmed: It makes no sense to have all budget tightening come from just part of the state budget while other programs are not examined. We also need to spend tax monies smarter, to do more with less.
Clark: By increasing taxes, giving in to federal fund blackmail, hiring more government employees to look into the problem and, lastly, letting the printing presses of the Federal Reserve solve the problems for us. No, really, for starters returning to constitutionally sound money, then treating the state's budget like any CEO of any successful business would, and cut the dead wood from it. Developing our natural resources without damaging the environment will be a huge boost to our economy.
Is DUI a concern, and if so, what can the Legislature do about it?
Schutt: Drivers who risk death and injury to others by driving intoxicated need to be stopped. But longer jail sentences aren't working and are very expensive. We need to aggressively channel repeat offenders into treatment. The penalties for refusal to breath-test need to be at least as strong as DUI itself. Innovative programs like Flathead County's Alcohol Court need to be expanded.
Clark: My concern is with the drunken leadership of the state who are piloting it at high speeds toward a rocky shore with no intention of slowing down. The Legislature has to end their Legislating Under the Influence and start using a simple litmus test on proposed bills: Is it constitutional? A government with inefficient self-restraint will never have the answers to personal self-control issues. We the people should be encouraging our countrymen not to drive while under the influence.
Are property taxes a concern, and if so, what can the Legislature do about it?
Schutt: Property tax increases are a huge concern in Flathead County. There were many good ideas to address the impending property taxes and reappraisal crisis in the last session. Provisions should be made to ease the tax increases on the elderly and the poor. A limit on increases in appraised values should also be discussed.
Clark: No one has had an issue with property taxes recently.
No, really, tax appraisals should continue to skyrocket even though the real estate bubble has not deflated fully and next go-around we should expect higher property taxes if nothing changes. I have an idea on how to cut property taxes by more than 60 percent, as well as offering the people of Montana an alternative to public schools for the education of their children.