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?
Democrat Cody Casazza did not provide responses.
Dee L. Brown
Residence: Canyon-Coram/Hungry Horse
Political Party: Republican
Family: Married 45 years to Steve with two children: Ryan in New Hampshire with two grandkids and Dedee in Arizona with two grandkids
Occupation: Retired teacher and business owner
Education: B.A. University of Montana, M.A. MSU Northern
Political Experience: Four terms in Montana House, one term in Montana Senate
1. Yes, but one that concentrates on sewers, water systems and roads/bridges. Infrastructure improvements should not include building projects. They are in a separate category. There was a big interest in infrastructure last session, but when the governor put in building programs it failed. This session will concentrate on true needs for aging and new infrastructure.
2. “Demand grows for clean and renewable energy in the region?” Demand only grows when these are subsidized by taxpayer dollars, as they are presently. Let’s show the true costs and let consumers decide about their energy bills. Our state has the cleanest-burning coal in the world, yet we allow foreign countries to buy lower-grade products. Let’s push our natural resources and keep those jobs at home. Job training is a noble cause. I always wonder what comparable job these people can get when exiting extraction industries. Most do not pay the wages/benefits they are currently receiving.
3. We haven’t had to tighten budgets since Governor Martz was in office 16 years ago. We could certainly start by zero-based budgeting so that taxpayers see the percentage growth from year to year. In reference to the previous question, will wind and solar taxes make up for those we receive as a state from our natural resources to fund programs like schools throughout the year? Our budgets have been growing at an alarming rate while income for the state is stagnating. We cannot continue to fund every program at the past rate, just like we do when our personal income declines. We need to scrutinize how we spend the taxpayers’ money to a greater degree in the next session.
4. Yes, we should. Anyone who has paid attention to our forests knows that state land is a much better managed system than the federal lands. Should we take it all at once? No. Select areas should be the target after this summer’s wildfire season. We know where they are located and should be working toward good management. Let’s use wildfire monies to actually put some people to work out in the woods and keep mills open like Weyerhaeuser in my district.
5. The state’s budget will be front and center. I am also concerned with the public pension systems that have over a billion dollars outstanding to pay the costs of a graying workforce. I look forward to the SAVA Committee meeting in November to hear “the state of pensions” in Montana. The money outstanding will be ongoing debt for taxpayers, so everyone should be paying closer attention to it.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.