General Election Q & A: Montana State House District 11

Democrat Kim Fleming vs. Republican Al Olszewski

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?

Name: Kim Fleming

Age: 62

Occupation: Homemaker

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Political Experience: Flathead County Planning Board and the Flathead City-County Health Board; Whitefish City Council, Whitefish City-County Planning Board, Parks Board and Board of Adjustments; Mediator for Justice Court.

Place of Residence: Lakeside

1. We should be reducing the dependency on federal dollars and the number of people on the welfare rolls in Montana. The federal government is mandating coverage for a plan that it likely cannot afford. The burden will then fall on Montana taxpayers to provide financial support or remove welfare recipients in order to continue the mandated federal program.

2. I believe the easiest way to encourage new and cleaner coal, oil and gas extraction is with tax incentives. This will be accompanied by regulation that protects our environment from water and air pollution as these industries grow. Private initiatives will grow when the regulatory scheme is fair to all players. I don’t favor one form of resource development over another.

3. Any surplus that occurs is money that belongs to taxpayers. I do not favor expansion of current programs or new programs when there is not an open discussion concerning the use of tax dollars. We become cynical toward our government when lawmakers eat up the surplus – perhaps even with permanent programs that must then be funded in future years. That could mean a tax increase just to maintain these new programs. Expansion of government should only come when there is thoughtful and open debate that involves the citizenry.

4. No. Eventually, when the will to continue a freeze is gone, there will likely be a huge increase in the cost of tuition and fees to catch up with inflation. I think it is better to plan and budget on a frequent basis, as most businesses do. Because the university budgeting process is so dependent on what the legislature allocates each session, the tuition should adjust as well.

5. No. While I no longer have children in the public school system, it is my belief that the use of standardized tests and curriculum do not leave much room to evaluate the individual needs and abilities of individual students. Instead, the schools teach students to pass the test. This is a disservice to the parents and the teachers who should provide a rounded education for our youth. The arts have suffered in recent years because that is not a high priority on these sorts of tests. Programs to encourage bright children have fallen victim to an industry geared to a curriculum that insures passing scores for even the lowest achievers. Parents also get left out of curriculum development; and every parent should be able to make decisions about our public education.

Name: Albert D. Olszewski

Age: 51

Occupation: Independent Orthopedic Surgeon, Flathead Orthopedics

Political Affiliation: Republican

Political Experience: Healthcare policy expert and advocate, Montana representative to the Physician’s Council for Responsible Reform (National Republican Congressional Committee)

Place of Residence: Kalispell

1. I do not support Medicaid Expansion because it forces the working poor of our state into an antiquated government-run medical insurance program. Medicaid is in desperate need of comprehensive and fundamental reform. Once in Medicaid, the working poor are penalized by the complete loss of their health insurance if they work toward upward economic mobility. This is unacceptable. This push to expand Medicaid must be defeated by providing an alternative. As a conservative I believe that we as the Republican Party need to demonstrate by our actions that we are the Party of equal opportunity and champion alternative private health insurance for working poor Montanans that is supported by federal grants similar to those insurances which middle-class and upper middle-class families of Montana are eligible through the health insurance exchange. In this model the working poor will be assured of not losing their insurance if they strive to improve their economic condition.

2. Yes, our state should encourage the extraction of our natural resources for the benefit of all residents. The first and most important step Montana needs to accomplish is to by take the lead in promoting building the infrastructure necessary to bring our natural resources to market. The infrastructure built would benefit many different business activities such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism simultaneously. Building this infrastructure will also produce jobs for Montanans in Montana.

3. It is simple. I would return all surplus funds back to the residents of Montana. My approach to the budget would be to critically analyze our Stateʼs revenues and expenditures during the last 12 years that a budget surplus existed. I would determine an acceptable reserve fund in order to pay for unanticipated revenue shortfalls. I would support legislation that returned the budget surplus to our residents through reduced State income tax rates for all Montanans. This budget surplus is better put to use by returning the several millions of dollars back into the pockets of hard working Montanans, than to be left in Helena where it would tempt future legislators to use it to grow our State government.

4. I do not support freezing tuition at in-state colleges or universities. As a board of trustee at an in-state private college, I believe the tuition needs to reflect the actual cost of education. Individuals need to honestly assess whether the major of study, the degree they desire, and the institution they choose is financially worthwhile. I will support the constant re-evaluation of the educational and administrative budgets of our public colleges and universities and champion that all public institutions provide the best possible education to our residents on the leanest budgets possible.

5. I do not support common core. I support the rights of local school boards to determine the curriculum. I do not agree with our federal government coercing our local school boards with significant funding promises if they submit to a federally determined “one size fits all” school curriculum. I do not agree with the bureaucratic changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that reduced parental rights and increased the dissemination and bureaucratic access to student biometric and educational data. I do not support the centralization of student assessment through computerized testing. One of the skills that makes a good teacher exceptional is their ability to determine the strengths and gifts each student has through personalized assessment. The amount of time it takes for our teachers to set up and monitor computerized assessment will occur at the expense of our teachers’ development and exercise of their personal assessment skills.

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