2018 General Election Q & A: House District 11

Republican Derek Skees vs. Democrat JoBeth Blair

By Tristan Scott
Democrat JoBeth Blair, left, and Republican Derek Skees.

1.  How do you intend to balance the state budget?

2. What taxes are you willing to increase, if any?

3. Are there any services you are willing to cut?

4. How do you plan to foster economic growth in the Flathead Valley?

5. What role should state government play in managing federal public lands, and how should those management activities be funded?

6. What are the most urgent issues facing your district?

Name: JoBeth Blair

Age: 43

Occupation: Real Estate Agent

Political Experience: This is my first time running for elected office.

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Place of Residence: Whitefish

1. The only successful way to balance the budget is through an open-minded, nonpartisan approach.  Stubborn hard-headed tactics will never have beneficial results; there must be some willingness from all involved to find common ground.

2. It is clear certain communities benefit greatly from enacting local option taxes (resort tax).  Local option taxes should be decided on by voters and allowed regardless of the population of the town/community.  I’m also in favor of eliminating unfair tax breaks that allow certain individuals and out of state corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

3. I’m willing to cut or reorganize programs and services that don’t work.  But, when talking about cutting services we must acknowledge we are talking about people and families who, for many different reasons need help.  Past Republican legislatures have forced us to cut too deeply into services that are essential to many of our friends, neighbors and fellow Montanans and the hurtful results of these cuts are being felt statewide.  We all benefit from Montanans across our state living a life with purpose, and we all share in the responsibility of maintaining a statewide framework that allows all Montanans to do so.

4. Developing our workforce and creating new jobs will foster and diversify our long-term economic growth.  By investing in education, through public schools, vocational training, our community college and our state universities, we will strengthen our workforce.  We need to offer entrepreneurs and small business owners more tools to take their business to the next level allowing them to grow, make a profit and hire more people.

5. I firmly believe our public lands should remain in public hands and none of us should be locked out of our public lands. It is also vital the federal government listen to and implement local expertise.  This is why it is important to have strong local representatives who focus on solutions rather than an all or nothing approach to land management.

6. I have knocked the doors of voters for the last 24+ weeks and the one topic that comes up over and over again is the increasing cost and barriers to health care access.  Without a doubt the health care system we have in this country does not work very well for anybody and is a unifying issue for all Montanans. If a person needs to see the doctor then they should be able to see a doctor, regardless of how much money they have. If a person’s diagnosis requires treatment, they should be able to receive it without having to beg for money from friends, family and strangers, or go bankrupt. This is why, I support continued Medicaid Expansion.  Medicaid Expansion allows 100k Montanans to see the doctor and receive treatment as needed.  Unfortunately, we have thousands of hardworking Montanans still unable to afford health care because they make too much to qualify for Medicaid Expansion but not enough to afford other insurance. Our health care system needs comprehensive change and we need to demand change on a national level.

Name: Derek Skees

Age: 50

Occupation: Self-employed construction consultant

Political Experience: Served as House District 4 Representative in 2011, House District 11 Representative in 2017 (and special session). Involved in Flathead Republicans Central Committee since 2009.

Political Affiliation: Constitutionalist (Republican)

Place of Residence: Kalispell

1. Balance the budget by reducing the size of state government (specifically eliminate vacancy savings, eliminate the policy of one manager to one employee positions, consolidate departments with redundant jobs as a start), implementing more transparency in how they spend what we give them and enact laws that reign in fraud and abuse. Those cost savings should enable us to have property tax relief statewide.

2. I am not willing to support any new taxes, especially a sales tax without eliminating property or income tax. We spend $10 billion dollars a biennium and have one million citizens…that is quite enough already. The Legislature will look at current revenues and develop a budget that will not raise taxes and it is the governor’s job to run the executive branch within that budget.

3. I would (again) suggest the governor not cut essential services as a device to try and fix outrage upon Republicans in the majority. The state government “found” nearly $100 million dollars during the last special session to shore up budget shortfalls when they realized we were not going to raise any taxes. I can’t think of a better excuse than that, which demonstrates the state needs to be more accountable to how they spend what we give them already.

4. We foster growth in the Flathead (and Montana) by enacting laws that change the executive culture in Helena. We need departments to have an “open for business” attitude, not just a simple “fill out this form,” call this other bureaucrat, no you can’t do that and you need to find out why yourself attitude with business. We need to finally eliminate the business equipment tax, get government out of the work comp business, and open up fair competition in liquor and other geographic limited licensing policies. In short, we need to reduce the onerous footprint that state government exerts on commerce, and that will sponsor a rebirth in the private sector, just like Trump is doing in D.C.

5. We need to work with our Federal partners to establish a better management plan for our national forests. I don’t really care who is in charge of what, as long as gates are removed, roads opened and maintained, reform enacted within the process that limits the “sue and settle” environmentalists and Forest Service current relationship, and finally a robust return to harvesting our timber products. Those renewable resource gathering jobs can support families with decent wages, increase the supply of American-made lumber and paper products in the market and foster a return to prosperity we enjoyed when Montana was in the top 10 per capita, not 49th like we are today.

6. My district wants property tax reduction, continued AIS protections in Flathead Lake, the elimination of the state tax on our Federal Income tax returns, stable and low energy prices, and they are against a statewide sales tax (without eliminating property or income as well). They want a more robust economic environment in the Flathead so that we can stem the flow of our children looking for employment outside the state. I am honored to be the candidate that has fought for and will continue to fight for these things for them.