Editor's note: In the run-up to the general election in November, the Ravalli Republic will publish a series of questions and answers with the candidates for state and county offices. Laura Garber is an Independent running for Senate District 43. Her opponent, Republic Jason Ellsworth's responses were published Friday.
Candidate: Senate District 43
Family: Married to Henry Wuensche with two children and one foster daughter.
Education: Graduated with High Honors from University of Montana in 2000 with degrees in German and Liberal Studies
Political experience: University of Montana ASUM Student Senator
Online campaign info: www.garber4MTcommunity.net
Ways voters can contact you: website, phone, visit me at the Saturday Hamilton Farmers’ Market
1. What is your strategy to balance the state budget? What taxes, if any, would you be willing to increase? What services, if any, would you be willing to cut? Should social service costs move to local governments?
Corporations headquartered out of state and whose majority of profits leave the state should contribute significantly more in tax dollars to the Montana state budget. This tax revenue should be used to fund expansion of services offered by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Public Instruction. Social services should be provided to everyone and the state and local governments should share the costs needed to support the health and education of all Montanans and the productive use our agricultural treasures. Federal monies offered to counties to support services should be accepted and put to use.
2. In 1992, the state paid 76 percent of the cost of public higher education in Montana. In 2018, the state is paying 38 percent. What portion of public higher education should the state fund, and why? Should it be closer to 38 percent or 76 percent? Please be specific.
Montana and its resident-students should share the cost of higher education. When Montana pays 50 percent, it makes a college education more attainable, which is an asset for our citizens and for our state. Out-of-state students should pay a higher percentage, possibly something in line with current in-state and out of state tuition differentiations. In addition, Montana should fund the creation of training opportunities in the trades and agriculture. Investing in higher education creates opportunity for both individuals and the small businesses who will benefit from the new skills and knowledge those future employees will learn.
3. How do you plan to address the housing affordability crisis in Missoula and other urban areas in Montana where job growth is attracting more people but housing scarcity is driving up rents and home prices and wages are not keeping pace?
Raising the minimum wage in Montana to be closer to a living wage will strengthen many aspects of society, including housing affordability. In addition, state investment into construction of modern cost effective housing with renewable energy technology will build homes for people and create jobs for Montanans. Stimulating Montana’s agricultural base by supporting small farms, organic agriculture and industrial hemp will bring more people back to live in our rural communities. Montana should actively support housing cooperatives in the state and help our financial institutions to find creative funding solutions for cooperative housing ventures.
4. What role should state government play in managing federal public lands and how should those activities be paid for?
Federal Public Lands are meant to be protected for their ecological value. When and if the state of Montana presents a plan to provide equal or better protections without turning to resource extraction, corporate misuse, or other forms of degradation, then that should be discussed. Federal protection and federal funding for that protection is an important way to spread costs of management across the entire U.S. population. Otherwise low population states with large acreages of public lands may not have the funds to support the necessary management costs. Federally protected lands cannot be given away to the highest bidder.
5. What do you regard as the most urgent problem facing Montana, and how do you propose dealing with it?
What is Montana if not its people?! We have lost sight of each other and are dwelling on ‘hot button’ issues that distract us from seeing Montanans as the most important issue. By focusing on what divides us, we’ve stopped stewarding the things that unite us - clean water, clean food, truth and honesty, human health and good old fashioned neighborliness! We must each refuse to be pulled into contentious debate about hot button issues and instead engage in proactive discussions and activities that put the immediate and long-term health and well-being of our individual Montana citizens and environment first.