House District 7 Q & A
Republican Randy Brodehl and Democrat Diane Frances Taylor face off in HD 7 race
House District 7 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 7
Name: Randy Brodehl
Bio: Live and work in my district; co-owner of R & J Enterprises, a cabinet shop; retired Kalispell fire chief; bachelor of science degree in fire service administration from Western Oregon State College
Years in the valley: 11
Campaign website: www.brodehlforhd7.com
1. Strengthen small businesses so that they can build jobs and put Montanans back to work. We will continue where we began last session by further reducing/removing: a) business and equipment taxes, b) burdensome, intrusive government regulations and c) workers’ compensation costs and frivolous litigation.
2. Montana’s state pension systems are failing because our pool of retirees is growing faster than new monies and investments can support. Pensions currently use a defined benefit system, meaning that each employee is guaranteed a certain percentage of their final income when they retire, regardless of pension fund balance. States that have faced the same failure in their pension systems have changed to a defined contribution system, or a combination (hybrid) system, where the employee and the employer put a certain amount in the pension system, and the employee draws out a sustainable monthly amount when they retire. The state, by law, cannot reduce the retirement benefits provided to our retirees, and the Legislature will likely not support changing the retirement benefits promised to existing employees. The fix requires: a) changing new employees to a defined contribution system, b) providing similar choices for existing employees, for all or a percentage of their retirement contributions, c) raising the minimum retirement age for new employees, d) across-the-board-reductions in budgets for agencies, e) and bipartisan cooperation and planning to provide a permanent fix to the retirement system without increasing the tax burdens on Montanans.
3. I support a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, returning those rights to the states and individuals. If we are not able to repeal the act, then, as required by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Montana will decide what the level of Medicaid should be. The Legislature can work to increase the number of Montanans who are privately insured, but currently cannot afford medical insurance. This alternative is less of a burden on the taxpayer, and provides better medical coverage than increasing the number of Montanans on Medicaid. We will once again look at insurance exchanges allowing Montanans to use tax money to supplement their private insurance costs. This act is a travesty that flies directly in the face of individual and state rights and needs to be stopped.
4. Let’s be clear: the projected surplus is not reality, as there are many unknowns such as tens of millions of dollars over the governor’s requested budget for fire suppression costs, increased second half biennium budgets, and pension shortfalls. However, if, at the end of the budget year, June 30, 2013, there is a surplus above the approved budget, it is the taxpayer’s surplus and it needs to go back to the taxpayer.
5. a) Getting government out of the way of small businesses so they can grow jobs.
b) Fixing the pension system to support our retirees and comply with the constitution.
c) Reducing state government intrusion into private lives and local government, so Montanans can once again function without the government in our backyards and our small businesses.
Name: Diane Frances Taylor
Bio: Retired school librarian and middle school math teacher, including 21 years at Helena Flats School and three years as Title 1 teacher at Moore School in Moore; 15 years with AT&T; Citizens for a Better Flathead board member; bachelor of arts degree in elementary education with reading minor from University of Montana and school library endorsement from University of Montana Western
Years in the valley: 21 years
Campaign website: www.dianefrancestaylor.com
1. The Legislature can establish a state bank where all public money would be deposited. The bank could make loans to students, local businesses, farmers and ranchers, and rebuilder loans for damages caused by natural disasters, for example. These loans would serve a dual purpose. They would serve to stimulate the local economy and they would earn interest for the state.
The Legislature can also establish a tax credit for businesses that increase their number of employees.
The Legislature can set up a program paid for with part of the surplus fund to hire workers to repair state infrastructure and to retrofit public buildings to make them more energy efficient.
2. To address the shortfall in the state government workers pension fund the Legislature could set up a tourist tax. It would be administered like a sales tax with certain items such as farm machinery exempt and Montana citizens would deduct the amount of sales tax they paid off of their state income tax. Based on the 4 percent allowed for such a tax in the state constitution and the amount spent by tourists in the state as supplied by Voices for Montana Tourism, that would bring in $59 million a year. (I excluded the amount spent on gas and hotels and campgrounds since they are already taxed.) That would reduce the shortfall by almost $1.8 billion over 30 years with no additional cost to Montana citizens. A portion of the interest earned by the state bank could also be applied to the shortfall.
3. I think everyone should have access to affordable health care and if Medicaid is the only way to provide that access it should be expanded.
4. If there is a budget surplus these areas could be addressed:
a) Establish a reserve fund to pay for the cost of forest fires
b) Help the communities impacted by the oil boom
c) Issue as a refund to taxpayers in the form of a one-time deduction on their state income tax
d) Invest in workforce training for dislocated and under-employed workers
5. The most pressing issues facing the Legislature are finding ways to build strong local economies that will reduce the unemployment rate to 5 percent or less, maintaining quality K-8 public education and affordable post-secondary opportunities, protecting the qualities of Montana that drive the $2.78 billion tourist industry and developing policies to manage Montana’s natural resources for this and future generations while ensuring that the wealth generated from these sources benefits Montanans.