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 Leesha Ford and Republican Ed Buttrey are the candidates in House District 21. Ford did not respond to our request.
1. 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?
The top issue affecting both Montana and Cascade County is our spending as compared to revenues that can be collected without overburdening the taxpayers that pay for governmental services. Montana’s sources of revenue is dynamic with changes due to e-commerce, natural resources, agriculture pricing and others. We must be adaptable and ready to find new innovative ways to collect revenue to use for the most critical governmental services. Cascade County is not growing, which means when government spends more locally, the same number of taxpayers have to pay more. I believe that we need to make Cascade County and Great Falls more attractive for growth, more responsive, and require government to control costs and minimize any increases to taxpayers. The other key issue is how to address the out of control costs of healthcare. This will require efforts at both the State and Federal levels. I know healthcare, economic development, the economy and how to stimulate jobs and revenues, which makes me the best candidate for HD21.
2. 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.
Most of what we deal with in Helena is not partisan. In fact, Republicans and Democrats vote together the majority of the time. It is when we come to the hot political issues where the battles are fought. The truth is that with a Republican controlled Legislature, and a Democrat in the Executive, one party will never be able to completely control what laws are passed. To truly address complex policy issues, a Legislator must know how to show members of both parties the merits of a policy and convince the majority of members and the Governor that the solution is good for Montanans. My motto is “Passion, not Politics”, which means that I will work as hard as possible to get good Legislation across the finish line for the people of Montana and HD21, no matter their political affiliation. That is my job, and I know who sent me to do it and what they expect me to do.
3. 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?
Our City and County have fallen behind the other larger population areas in Montana for growth, mainly due to policies that are not seen as business friendly, and the inability to quickly adapt how we do business as government. We are not flexible and as such cannot compete with other areas for business opportunities. We continually increase taxes to pay for growing government while the same numbers of taxpayers foot the bill, making our area unattractive for new business. We must become adaptable, efficient and find ways to make our community attractive for business, and a place that our youth and new families want to live. As a State Legislator, I work to ensure that State government stays out of the way of local growth. It is, however, the duty of our local citizens, including me, to demand that our City and County run efficiently, and are flexible and attractive for new business and families. Growth and increased population remains the only way to afford any increased costs of services.
4. 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?
I have not and will never support a sales tax for Montana. We simply can’t trust government in any type of deal where we substitute one tax (sales tax) for another (property tax). While it may seem attractive in the short term, in the long term we would end up with two types of taxes that will increase to pay for more government. Once a tax is created, it will exist in perpetuity. We need to embrace new revenue models, including ones that realizes gains from e-commerce. We need to continue to reduce government waste, and reduce or remove government caused barriers and unneeded regulation in order to help our businesses and people become more successful. More success results in growth, additional work and business opportunities, and ultimately additional revenue for the State of Montana.