Democrat Carla Augustad challenges incumbent Republican Mark Blasdel in a replay of the 2008 race for House District 10. Spanning much of the lower valley and northwest shore of Flathead Lake, including Somers and Lakeside, the voters of H.D. 10 chose Blasdel over Augustad, 4,412 to 1,632, last time around.
Despite the tough odds in an election year shaping up to be favorable to Republicans, Augustad remains committed to her candidacy for the Legislature, where she hopes to advocate for those on the lower end of the pay scale. She said her experience working jobs like cashier, waitress and at a plant nursery have given her insight into how difficult it can be to make ends meet for many valley residents.
“I would like to work on Montana having more of a commitment to Montana,” she said. “Our best asset is the people.”
Augustad would like to see Montana’s investment portfolio divest itself of funds profiting from countries abusing human rights, and transfer any such funds to local banks. She also wants Montana to focus more on generating jobs from within its borders, rather than relying on outside firms, “to come in and give us a good job for a little while.”
Maintaining infrastructure like dams and preserving water quality could, among other benefits, put people to work, according to Augustad.
“Our groundwater is not too far from being not good,” she said. “We need to take care of these things.”
To deal with the state’s looming budget crunch, Augustad suggested Montana could consider allocating bed tax funds away from tourism marketing and “into programs that are more critical.” As for the ongoing controversy over medical marijuana in Montana, Augustad sees it as one more component of the wasteful, “War on Drugs.”
“It is a permanent quagmire that should just be regulated like tobacco and alcohol,” she said.
Her opponent, Blasdel, is seeking his third term representing H.D. 3. As the owner and manager of Vista Linda restaurant and catering, Blasdel has worked in previous sessions to stop tax policies he considers anti-business: “It’s not always what you pass, but a lot of it’s what you stop, too.”
He has also co-sponsored gun rights bills like the Firearms Freedoms Act in 2009, and fought against implementation in Montana of the Real ID Act in 2007.
If elected in November, Blasdel hopes to help reform the worker’s compensation system to lower rates, streamline permitting processes to spur business, and do away with the business equipment tax, a popular target of Republicans.
“It’s tough to draw businesses,” Blasdel said. “The equipment costs are so high that it’s a disincentive.”
With a massive predicted budget shortfall for 2013, building a state budget without raising taxes will be the key issue of the session, according to Blasdel. He suggests cutting back on spending by having at least two areas of the state budget do “zero-based” budgeting each biennium, as opposed to basing department budgets on the previous year’s numbers.
“You have to take a look at how can we do it and not decrease services, but run more efficiently,” Blasdel said.
As for the demand by some state employees’ unions for pay increases heading into 2011, Blasdel is unequivocal.
“It’s a negative for them to be standing on that hill in times like these,” he said. “I know my vote will be no; there are a lot of people out there just looking for jobs.”
BEACON ELECTION 2010 CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE: House District 10
1. How should the state improve how it conducts property reappraisals, if at all?
2. What’s the top issue facing Montanans in your district and how do you plan to work on it in the session?
3. How should the state change its regulation of medical marijuana?
NAME: Carla Augustad
OCCUPATION: under consideration
YEARS IN THE VALLEY: 18
1. Reappraisals need to be done again, and the work of the last session should be repeated correctly because the bill they passed then clearly does not work for most Montanans. Property reappraisals should be done at the sale of a home and when structural changes are made that change the value of that property because most people value their houses as homes rather than investments.
2. I keep hearing about our need for good paying jobs that won’t pollute the lake, and that difficulty for some finding community in this area is directly or indirectly affecting their quality of life. I would only advocate for solutions that do not require government intervention or for ideas that require a real commitment to our home and the people who live here.
3. I think that marijuana should be taxed and regulated the same way that tobacco and alcohol are because we need rules and structure for safety and stability. But I firmly believe that the last 70-plus years of the drug war have been a tragic and expensive disaster. I believe this whole issue takes too much time, money and energy that we could better invest in the things we want and need.
NAME: Mark Blasdel
OCCUPATION: Owner/Manager Vista Linda Restaurant & Catering
YEARS IN THE VALLEY: 34
1. First, the state needs to erase the new reappraisals and start again or go back to the 2002 values until the market becomes more stable. Valuations placed on landowners in District 10 were extremely overvalued and taken at the peak of the market. Since that 2008 value, property values have declined dramatically but the homeowner has not seen that in their property tax amount. Legislation must cap the increase of property taxes and give the taxpayer a consistent and stable property tax structure.
2. The top two issues facing District 10 are the economy and property taxes. I plan to work on the economy and increasing job opportunities in the private sector by supporting tax reductions, workers comp reform, tort reform and streamlining permitting processes and regulations to enhance the business climate of the Flathead Valley. Secondly, the legislature must revisit the property tax reappraisal system to place a cap on increases, adjust for drops and reduce the burden put on the Flathead valley residents.
3. Unfortunately, a proposal passed by the voters has become abused by greed and mismanaged to the point that local governments and citizens are being forced to reexamine whether it is viable and what restrictions are necessary. I believe tougher restrictions must be placed on where users can have the product, where dispensaries can be located, and to eliminate of roaming clinics that grant cards with little medical oversight. It may also be time to let the voters revisit the idea.
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