1. In May, Ravalli County residents voted to approve the creation of a new community college district, but did not pass a levy to support it. The decision on whether the district will be created is now in the hands of the Legislature and Board of Regents. If elected, how will you vote on this issue?
The last special election resulted in 58.54% of the district voting in support of organizing the Community College, but only 46.98% of voters supported the levy to fund it; for a difference of 11.56%. The voters have spoken, and our system worked in the manner it was designed to. While I love the idea of having a Community College, those driving the idea will need to continue working to find fresh, creative, self sustained funding ideas, and common ground earning support of the voters. Normally, the legislature appropriates a lump sum to the Board of Regents, and from there, the Board of Regents appropriates funds as it deems appropriate. The word around the Capitol is that Ravalli County is being punished for being predominately Republican and it’s reflected in the lack of funding for our community college. Regardless of the validity of that rumor, our new governor will have the opportunity to adjust the Board of Regents as he deems appropriate. I predict the problem will be solved during that negotiation process if Greg Gianforte is in the governors chair.
2. State revenues are expected to dip due to the pandemic. Typically those shortfalls are made up either by raising taxes or cutting budget items. What taxes would you support raising or what services would you cut to make up for that anticipated shortfall? Please be specific.
State revenues were expected to dip, but in reality, our last report showed an increase of 20 million in tax revenues over the HB2 projections; and our financial reserves are strong at this time. The State Special Revenue Account that funds local governments took the biggest hit from Covid. Our Ravalli County Commissioners and Sheriff Holton should be commended for the decisions they made that allowed our local businesses to stay open.
The shortfalls are predicted to come in 2023. We must continue to audit the state agencies for accuracy in distribution of federal funds, and tighten up the performance metrics to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.
While it may be accurate to say that raising taxes or cutting services are the “typical” way of covering shortfalls, it’s certainly not the only way to address the issue. Montana is called the Treasure State because of our wealth of natural resources. We can avoid raising taxes and cutting services in any number of ways — negotiating local log sales and management using the Good Neighbor authority that was passed last session; reducing egregious “red tape” regulation on mining and drilling permits. Investing in clean energy hydro dams and power, harnessing the God given wonder of our water. Negotiate more grazing allotments on federally “managed” lands. Open our doors to tourism once again and promote our extensive experience in “social distancing.”
3. The reason state revenues are expected to drop is small businesses have been hurt due to the pandemic either through the shortened hours or supply chain issues. What specific ideas do you have that would help kick-start the economy in Ravalli County?
Very simple — Let our people work! Honor our Constitution and private property rights, and allow our citizens to pursue their God given right to life, liberty and happiness. Give our citizens the opportunity to open the doors to their businesses and trust them to be responsible in mitigating the minimal risks associated with virus. This is America. We quarantine the sick and protect the vulnerable, and take personal responsibility for our own health and actions. See my answer to the second question.
4. How important is it to you to be able to work with the opposing party to get legislation passed?
I’ll be delighted to work with anyone, from either party, who takes their oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Montana seriously. All legislation should cite the constitutional provision from which it stems before being considered by the legislature in my humble opinion.
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