2016 Election: House District 12

Incumbent Republican Greg Gertz faces challenges Democrat Susan Evans

By Beacon Staff
House District 12 candidates Susan Evans, left, and Greg Hertz. Courtesy Photos

The Questions:

1. Are infrastructure improvements a major concern for Montana and, if so, what would you do to help pass a comprehensive infrastructure package?

2. Montanans rely on extraction-based industries for jobs, even as demand grows for clean and renewable energy in the region. How would you help employees in the coal, oil and natural gas industries maintain their livelihood, or pursue training in other fields in Montana’s changing economic landscape?

3. Given that the Legislative Fiscal Division has projected an ending fund balance that is considerably less than what was anticipated, what would be your budgetary approach heading into the session?

4. Should the state of Montana push to take more control of some federal land management?

5. What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the 2017 Legislature, and how do you propose dealing with it?

Susan Evans

Residence: Polson
Political Party: Democrat
Family: Three grown children — a daughter who served honorably for six years in the Army as a Military Intelligence Korean Linguist & Crypto Analyst; a son who served honorably in the Marine Corps; a son who served honorably in the Army as a Communications Specialist and Level 2 Combatives Instructor
Occupation: Former school teacher; currently the owner of an engraving and awards business plus gift shop
Education: B.S. in Education from Eastern Montana College, now MSU Billings, with majors in English and Art, and some post-graduate work at the U of M
Political Experience: Elected Precinct Committee Woman; Youth at Risk of Homelessness Task Force; Secretary, Lake County Democrats; Alternate Committee Woman, Lake County
Website: None

1. Of course infrastructure improvements are a major concern. It is unfortunate that the previous legislative session failed to pass anything to address this. I would work toward a bipartisan solution.

2. In the recent past, a person expected to get a job, work for that company, retire with a decent pension. Now, the average adult has already had at least three major career changes, and the younger generations are expected to have many more changes. Retirement has been disabled, until the average person is required to build their own IRA. I understand that many coal employees came from generations of coal industry workers. I feel that is unreasonable for them to expect to continue those careers, when the industry has known for many years that coal would not be a viable option. We have programs in place to retrain those who have lost their jobs because of plant closures. Plum Creek is an example of that. Many of those employees were given options for retraining. One man who I know personally went back to school at SKC for new employment goals. I watched how the wind farm at Judith Gap, near where my mother lived in Harlowton, was a boost to the local economy during construction, and continues offering benefits from ongoing service.

3. Sound fiscal planning requires a balanced approach. We have done better than almost every other state to keep expenditures in line with income. We could explore closing some tax loopholes that benefit only a small percentage of our residents, while taking the burden off of the average wage earners.

4. I feel that the movement to take control of some federal land management is a thinly disguised effort to take over, and then claim that it’s too much to handle, opening the way for private interests to buy up prime recreation properties. We saw that happen in Polson, when prime riverfront park property was sold off to pay for fairground improvements. As my son said recently, once you sell the land, it’s gone. I would like to create a more cooperative effort between the federal government, allowing local folks to make more decisions, since we are the ones who live here and understand our own backyards better than somebody in Washington, D.C.

5. I feel that it is important to review our tax structures, keeping the interests of the middle-income people foremost in our planning. I am determined to protect our natural resources. I am not a “bleeding heart liberal,” but since I am part of the Family Table dinners, and cook every month at Soup’s On, I see the need to take care of the little, the least, the lost, the last, and the lonely. We’ve all been one or more of those, and may yet be any of them. We should be giving tax incentives for charitable giving, which would take the burden off of government, and put it back into the hands of local “boots on the ground” enterprises, such as the food pantry, and Soup’s On.

Greg Hertz

Residence: Polson
Political Party: Republican
Family: Married 38 years, three children and three grandchildren
Occupation: President/CEO Moody’s Market Inc., which operates Super 1 Foods in Polson, Harvest Foods in Ronan, Lolo, Thompson Falls, and St. Maries, Idaho, along with Blacktail Grocery in Lakeside
Education: B.A. in Business – University of Montana 1980; Certified Public Accountant
Political experience: Representative for Montana House District 11 – Polson in 2013 and House District 12 – Polson in 2015
Website: www.gregoryhertz.com; Representative Greg Hertz on Facebook

1. Infrastructure is a major concern across Montana. Any infrastructure spending needs to be prioritized on schools, water systems, sewer systems and roads. The state of Montana currently collects $200 million from local property owners that are deposited into the general fund. We need to keep these property taxes at the local level so they can be used by cities and counties for infrastructure needs.

2. Falling oil and gas pricing have had a significant impact on the coal industry. Additionally, the Obama Administration’s war on coal has had a significant impact on utility companies’ use of coal. Our current governor has not been out in front on these issues and has failed to push back on the Obama Administration. One of the first priorities to helping workers in the natural resource industry is to help elect a governor who will stand up against the federal government and regulations that have little to no impact in protecting our environment. We also need to work with our two-year schools to ensure we’re helping workers prepare for other occupations. Currently, the renewable energy economy shows no signs that it could ever provide our state the same level of tax revenue provided by the natural resource economy. The loss of tax revenue is already greatly impacting our state budget and will have a domino effect across the state.

3. Montana’s budget has grown over $800 million under Governor Bullock’s last four years. I did not support the final budget under HB 2 in either the 2013 or 2015 legislative session. With decreasing revenues likely during the 2017 session, we will need to thoroughly review all levels of government, with some receiving reductions. My priorities are to fund schools at our required levels, review spending in regard to jailing of criminals and push some of those resources to other community-based programs like treatment court, house arrest and 24/7 monitoring.

4. Yes. The state needs to have a bigger role in the management of federal land. Federal employees living and working in Montana have been curtailed in doing their jobs by Washington, D.C. policies and federal courts. Montana, like other Western states, should have more input and control of federal lands in their states.

5. We have lost many good-paying jobs in the timber industry in western Montana over the last 40 years and now we are facing significant job losses in the oil, gas, mining and coal industries. Although Montana is a great place to live, work and raise a family, we need to create higher-wage jobs so our children and grandchildren don’t have to leave the state to find opportunity. We need to make changes to our tax structure and workers compensation system to ensure we are competitive with states in our region when trying to attract and retain jobs. We also need a governor and a Department of Commerce that are actively pursuing companies to relocate to our state. The Legislature has provided the funding, but the Bullock Administration is not getting the job done. We need new leadership in the Governor’s Office.

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