General Election Q & A: House District 4

Republican Keith Regier vs. Democrat Melanie Knadler

By Tristan Scott

1. Should the state of Montana expand Medicaid to Montanans earning less than 138 percent of poverty, as allowed under the Affordable Care Act? Why or why not?

2. Should the state encourage or discourage the production of coal, oil and gas? How?

3. The state of Montana has had budget surpluses in recent years. Should
this money be invested in public services, returned to taxpayers in some form, or both? Please be specific.

4. Do you support freezing tuition for in-state students attending state colleges and universities for two more years, as the 2013 Legislature did? Why or why not?

5. Montana schools are implementing new math and English standards and testing known as the Common Core standards. Do you support these? Why or why not?

Keith Regier (Incumbent)

Age: 62

Occupation: retired teacher

Political experience: Three terms, Montana House

Political affiliation: Republican

Place of residence: Kalispell

1. Before Medicaid is expanded there should be Medicaid reform. Patients who are chronic users of Medicaid should be evaluated for possible abuse of the system, and able-bodied people who can be employed should be helped to find employment. There could then be room for more on the current program.

2. Coal, oil and gas production should be encouraged by the state. Inexpensive abundant energy improves the quality of life for people and improves their standard of living. The state needs to cut red tape in the permitting process for developing these natural resources.

3. Montana has had an ending-fund balance for many years. That means the state is collecting too much money from taxpayers. It’s time for permanent tax relief for taxpayers in the form of reduced income tax rates and reduced property taxes collected by the state.

4. A tuition freeze for in-state students would be fine if the universities can live within their budget.

5. Common Core standards are coming from the federal government. Public education should be locally controlled. There are several states that have not adopted Common Core standards, and Montana should join them. Local school boards should develop their own standards.

Melanie J. Knadler

Age: 58

Occupation: Teacher

Political experience: First run for political office

Political affiliation: Democrat

Place of residence: Kalispell

1. Montana should absolutely expand Medicaid. Since 2008, Montanans have been contributing to the expansion through a variety of sources so it’s only common sense we should access it rather than have it dispersed to other states. From a monetary standpoint, it will create healthier and more productive workers overall; in addition, the default use of the emergency room as “primary care” should decrease dramatically, which in turn will reduce costs for medical facilities, and so on. More importantly, from a humanist standpoint, those who cannot afford health insurance—many of whom work jobs without medical benefits—will have the opportunity to enjoy better health with a measure of dignity, including preventative care, rather than “crisis-driven” care.

2. I believe this question is one of the more difficult I have tackled when visiting with folks about our state economy. As a person deeply concerned about the effects of these processes on Montana’s natural health, I also see the value of providing strong, union “living-wage“ jobs. Currently, these jobs do provide that opportunity. However, it is imperative that energy companies mitigate the negative impacts, and   begin an active transition to environmentally responsible sources of energy.

3. Montana has enjoyed a budget surplus, and that speaks well for our recent and present leadership. The wise and prudent action would be to invest this money in our public services. As a taxpayer, it’s always nice to receive a tax return; however, returned amounts spread over the state would typically be fairly small.   I believe that Montanans possess the foresight to see that collectively those monies could enhance our state in ways that would last for generations to come. For example, it could be invested into education, updated technology, implementation of alternate energy sources, and the creation of new jobs that would benefit our citizens beyond a one-time check. The possibilities are endless, but again, I believe our thoughtful citizens see the value in long-term investments.

4. I support a tuition freeze for two more years for the simple fact our students deserve the opportunity to pursue an affordable education. Advanced education is the key to a stronger economy, and a more vibrant community. Job prospects in Montana are limited; therefore, those who wish to expand their options should get that opportunity without the burden of excessive student loans.

5. As one of those teachers implementing the Common Core standards, I do support them. The standards are not a radical new program designed to set up students for failure. The intention is primarily to ensure that all students graduate with a well-developed understanding of key educational skills and abilities. As is often the case with “new” ideas, the abundance of misinformation surrounding this concept has tainted the program’s reputation. I would encourage those who are unsure about it to contact a local school administrator or teacher and get their professional perspective.

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