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 Tom France did not provide responses.
Political Party: GOP
Family: Married to wife Janey for 36 years with three daughters and four grandchildren
Education: Graduate of Ronan High School and Montana State University with a degree in Agricultural Production
Political Experience: Elected to Montana House of Representatives in 2011, 2013, and 2015; elected to Ronan School Board five times
1. Infrastructure was the biggest disappointment of the 2015 session. It became a political football at the end of the session with all Montanans losing out from the lack of the passage of a bill.
Legislators must deal with infrastructure early in the session. There is a very good chance there will be several bills introduced that will need to be pared down to something acceptable with the budget constraints we will be facing. I would expect several levels of infrastructure projects with a revenue trigger. This would start the projects at a base level, and if revenue triggers are met, the next level of projects would be authorized.
2. We need to be proactive against new regulations and lawsuits that are utilized just to harm our natural resource industries. The Democratic “War on Coal” is trying to not only harm Colstrip but wound Montana’s economy also. The Flathead has just seen the example of shutting down the forests resulting from no logs to process. The renewable energy industry is not economically viable without government subsidies and offers very few jobs.
I would expect there are programs in place for retraining of workers as were in place for the workers at Plum Creek’s mill here in Pablo when it closed. The new jobs didn’t offer the same wages and benefits for the newly trained workers, though. The local economy is still suffering.
3. Caution. There will be very little new spending. State employee wages and statutory education increases will make very little money available for use in other areas. This is probably the biggest obstacle for an infrastructure bill.
4. I hope this is an item that has a lot of discussion during the session. I am not in favor of transfer of federal lands to the state. I would like to see not just state input but local input into some of these land management decisions.
5. The budget and how it impacts all the other issues will be the main issue. Tax cuts will be hard-pressed to be considered when the state’s revenue stream is already frugal.
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