As part of E-City Beat’s continuing effort to help our readers make informed decisions as voters, last month we sent questionnaires to all local legislative candidates in the upcoming general election informing them that we would publish their responses without editorial comment.
Here are the four questions we asked:
- What do you see as the top two issues facing Montana and Cascade County in the next 5 years and why are you the best candidate for the district you’re running in to tackle those issues?
- Identify at least one issue you see as an opportunity to work across party lines on and describe how you will do that to accomplish what’s best for your constituents.
- Why is Cascade County/Great Falls so far behind other Montana cities and counties in growth and economic development and what do you plan to do about it as a legislator?
- Do you think we need some form of a sales tax or other solution in Montana to help offset property taxes and why or why not?
Democrat Keaton Sunchild and Republican Fred Anderson are the candidates in House District 19. Sunchild did not respond to our request.
Two of the top issues facing Montana and Cascade County in the next five years are Medicare Expansion and the ability to grow our economic base. Both issues need to be addressed by legislative action rather than through initiatives. Both I-185 and I-186, as presented, carry the potential for significant negative impact to our state.
A cloud of opioid and other addictions cover our state. As Attorney General Tm Fox has stated, the addiction challenges facing our state is a primary focus. I will certainly work across party lines to find solutions to this crisis. Medical Expansion is also an area which will provide ample opportunity for me to work across party lines. It, like the illegal drug use, is a “hot button” issue that will have significant social and fiscal impact on Montana’s residents well into the future.
I believe that a key reason that Cascade County and Great Falls trail other Montana cities in growth and economic development is that we have not only enjoyed the blessing of the economic impact of Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Air Guard, but have also become dependent on them. If we are going to grow our economic base, we must actively recruit and attract a broad base of business. We must actively strive to build a dynamic and diverse economic base. As a Legislator, I will work with city and county leaders to help attract diverse economic growth to Cascade County/Great Falls and will serve as a strong advocate for our community.
In the past, the people of Montana have been very clear on the fact that they did not want a sales tax. Given that, it is interesting that some of our Montana cities currently have a form of sales tax known as the Local Option and Resort Tax. The Business Equipment Tax is also another form of sales tax on a select segment of our population. I believe Montanan’s citizens oppose a general sales tax because they are not confident that it will replace either property taxes or income taxes on a long-term basis. If there was sufficient trust that a sales tax would replace either property or income taxes, I believe it would be more acceptable to the general public. A key advantage to a general sales tax is that the tourist industry would more actively contribute to Montana’s revenue needs.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Wayfair VS South Dakota changes the game in terms of our state having a mechanism for collecting taxes from on-line purchases. In terms of leveling the playing field for our state’s local businesses, I believe that we will need to develop a mechanism for capturing revenue from on-line purchases.