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: Kwen Shirley
Occupation: Supervisor at Starbucks
Political Experience: None in elected office, but I have been involved in politics since before I was 18.
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Place of Residence: Off Hwy 2 by the airport, just north of Evergreen, in District 4
1. Priorities should be turned to finding ways within our current tax structure to shore up any shortfalls in income tax. There are several ways we could look at doing that, all of which would not place the burden on the individuals.
2. Increasing taxes on the individual will only increase our budget issues, not help them. Un-flattening our tax brackets and working on large corporation tax incentives is something to look at.
3. As we have felt, when there is a budget shortfall, we see a cut in many essential services. I think that looking for ways to make sure we don’t have to cut anything more is important.
4. We need to take a hard look at why our fire seasons have been so bad. I have talked to several people who have dedicated their lives to studying forest management and fire management, and they all have very similar thoughts on how we can help reduce fires, make jobs, and gain resources. All of them say that it would bring growth and industry to the valley, while reducing fires and fire related costs. It’s something I am very interested in looking into. Here in the Flathead, this plays more than one role as a better fire season also means a better tourist season.
5. If management of federal lands helps reduce our costs in the longterm, we should look into it. As of now, fires on federal lands cost Montana money that in the past has been completely unbudgeted for. Reducing those costs may save us money, and could, in part, be funded by the work itself.
6. Access to public lands, the rising cost of healthcare and property taxes, and access to well funded education for our children.
Name: Matt Regier
Occupation: Small business owner, construction
Political Experience: City of Kalispell Planning Board, Montana Representative for House District 4
Political Affiliation: Republican
Place of Residence: Columbia Falls
1. The state should balance the checkbook just like all other Montana families, by operating within their means.
2. This ties into the above question, if the government is going to spend more, they are going to have to take it from Montanans. There are Montanans that are working multiple jobs. They are doing their best to get ahead. To take that effort away to start another government program or to expand an existing expensive government program is unfair and un-compassionate to that hardworking Montanan. Let’s look at where the current $10.5 billion is being spent and obtain efficiencies before talking about taking more of Montanan’s money.
3. Before even looking at services, the bureaucracy should be scrutinized. For example, there are state run medical clinics that are only available to state employees. State employees that already have great, taxpayer funded, health insurance. These exclusive clinics are there so a select few do not have to pay a co-pay or to wait in line with the rest of the public at the community hospital. This is not a service, but an annual $6 million waste of your tax dollars. We have to cut the waste before ever talking about where we go with services.
4. It is the people that make our state great. The more our state government can do to remove barriers for Flathead valley entrepreneurs will only strengthen our valley’s economy. An example would be lowering the business equipment tax. Having a healthy, growing company to work for will provide job security for employees as well as stability for employers. Financial stability is the foundation of Flathead small businesses. Lowering the business equipment tax is one example of action that would provide economic strength.
5. The question is who owns the tree that is in the Flathead National Forrest? When it comes to the question of management of our state, should it be Montanans that get to say what happens to the tree in Montana, or should it be Washington D.C. that gets to decide how to manage Montana? I believe it should be Montanans that manage Montana.
6. At the top of the list is the threat to our 2nd amendment rights. Much of that fight to hold our rights is preserved at the federal level, but our rights will be eroded at the state level if we are not vigilant. Look at the stifling gun laws of Chicago, and it quickly clarifies the direction some would like to see Montana gun laws go. I believe in the people not politicians. That is why I will continue to work to not just hold on to our rights but go on the offense to strengthen them.