House District 5 Q & A
House District 5 candidates were asked the following five questions:
1. What can the Legislature do to spur economic recovery and job growth?
2. How should the Legislature address the state government worker pension shortfall, which is projected to exceed $3 billion over the next 30 years?
3. The U.S. Supreme Court gave states the choice of whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. What should Montana do and why?
4. Given that the state is projected to have a surplus, what should be the Legislature’s budgetary priorities during the next session?
5. What are the other most pressing issues facing the Legislature and why?
HOUSE DISTRICT 5
Name: Keith Regier
Bio: Small business owner and retired teacher; taught 28 years Evergreen Junior High School; served two terms as representative of House District 5; bachelor of science degree in education from University of Nebraska; post-graduate fifth-year teaching certificate from Montana State University-Northern
Years in the valley: 37
1. What can the Legislature do to spur economic recovery and job growth? The Legislature needs to continue reducing the Worker's Comp rates and eliminate the business equipment tax. Too often government can be an obstacle to businesses by various departments delaying permits or implementing expensive rules that businesses need to comply with. Departments that have rule making authority need to be accountable for those rules.
2. Montana has the resources to fix the pension deficit. Some coal tax revenue, some ending fund balance money and increased active member contributions can fix the problem. This coupled with all new hires being on a defined contribution plan would put the state on a path to pension fiscal stability. No increased taxes would be needed.
3. Montana needs to expand and grow the private sector. More jobs means fewer people needing government assistance. Federal and state governments should be working to get people off of assistance, not expanding government assistance.
4. After dealing with the state's obligation to the pension funds, if there is some extra money, it should be returned to the tax payers through some permanent tax relief. Money left in individual's pockets will help grow a healthy economy.
5. Property taxes need to be reduced. Oil and gas receipts are increasing and would be a good source of revenue to apply to property tax reduction.
Name: James Mahnke
Bio: Retired neurosurgeon; studied history and literature as undergraduate at Harvard University; University of Washington School of Medicine; surgical intern at University of Minnesota; residency at University of Washington; faculty at Medical College of Virginia, Yale University and University of California, Irvine; private practice neurosurgeon; Kalispell Regional Medical Center neurosurgeon
Years in the valley: Since 1989
1. I think that’s the big question for this year. We have a very inefficient economy, ridden with special subsidies, transfer payments, etc. The arms industry, the so-called Defense Department, takes up 59 percent of the discretionary budget, and the Republicans don’t want to touch the military industrial complex, as the great Eisenhower called it.
We need to quit subsidizing the beef industry and we need a chamber of commerce that is really focused on the local economy. Why is our chamber of commerce – local and state – linked to the national chamber of commerce and speculative money machines of eastern America?
2. We need to put everything on the table, including delaying retirement. We have extensive corporate welfare for the rich and I think we need to take away the tax holiday for corporations and help out the pensioners. Pensioners are being punished while corporations are subsidized. We should tax some of these unbelievably rich corporations.
3. I’ve worked in three medical schools and much of medical education takes place in VA hospitals, county hospitals, city hospitals – that’s where the poor people are. As a general principle, they ought to have good medical care. What we need is a single-payer medical system. Compared to western European countries we’re spending two to two-and-a-half times as much on medical care. I do think we should expand Medicaid.
4. If we can’t agree on budget projects, we have a great need to have money in the bank. We need a rainy day fund. The economy is very volatile. The Great Recession started with Reagan, who cut taxes and raised spending. The outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, and the eagerness of large parts of both parties – mostly the Republicans – to promote the bottom line at the health of the republic is very concerning. Big money and the giant corporations have too great of an influence.
5. I think we would have a healthier economy if we had a more effective Legislature, one that meets annually, not every other year. The every-other-year sessions aren’t enough. And we need a nonpartisan staff in the Legislature. Last session was a laughing stock.
We need to work on sustainable agriculture and social justice issues and prosperity for families and the little people.