2018 General Election Q & A: House District 7

Incumbent Republican Frank Garner vs. Democrat Jim Cossitt

By Tristan Scott
Incumbent Republican Frank Garner, left, and Democrat Jim Cossitt.

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: Frank Garner

Age: 56

Occupation: Security/Law Enforcement Consultant

Political Experience: Served two terms in the Montana House of Representatives for House District 7

Political Affiliation: Republican

Place of Residence: Kila

1. The legislature is charged with the constitutional duty of passing a balanced budget.  It’s the one thing we have to do before we can go home. It’s a balance between our needs and our ability to pay. I wouldn’t look to increase taxes until we made the decisions about what services are truly necessary and ensure we are being as efficient as possible. I would also look to shift some of the burden from the less than one million income producers and property owners in this state to the twelve million visitors we have each year.

2. I would first look to control costs. The majority of our taxes for local government and state government come from property tax and income tax. Those are essentially indexed and increase if income and property values rise. I don’t see the need to increase those beyond the index that already exists. We should consider how we can shift some of that burden to the visitors to our state.

3. Yes. I have voted to reduce services when revenues are down. It is the same decision we all have to make in our personal lives every day. We balance our needs against our ability to pay. I wouldn’t make the decision on cutting needed services until we’ve finished a comprehensive and thoughtful review. I would cut administrative costs in Helena before cutting services in our communities.

4. Provide a well-educated work force, a reasonable and predictable regulatory and tax environment, safe communities, help the truly needy and invest in infrastructure.  People want to live here and I believe if we provide the tools and get out of their way our citizens will create jobs, spur economic growth and provide the kind of future for our state that will be the envy of others. A robust economy can solve many problems.

5. I think we should look for opportunities where local management provides added value. Not all opportunities will and we should only do so when there is a net gain to our state. I think these lands are one of our greatest assets and they should be jealously guarded. I’m interested in managing them to their highest and best use but I’m not interested in selling them.

6. We have a graying population, a drug crisis, healthcare and infrastructure needs, housing affordability issues, education and safety needs in our schools, we have one of the highest suicide rates in the country and hundreds of people die each year on our roads. Our ability to pay for solutions will be tested when income tax revenues are challenged in a recession. Those revenues can be highly volatile and we risk maintaining acceptable levels of service if we don’t shift some of the burden away from the state’s income earners to its nearly twelve million visitors each year. We must diversify our tax base and continue to control costs to ensure our shared future success.

Name: Jim Cossitt

Age: 60

Occupation: Attorney specializing in bankruptcy, insolvency, reorganization, debtor/creditor and commercial litigation.

Political Experience: Never held office. Testified and submitted extensive written comments on the  Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Place of Residence: Kalispell

1. By raising more revenue. To increase revenue, I support repeal of various tax expenditures  (deductions) such as: a) the special treatment for capital gains; b) the “water’s edge election”; and c) oil and gas new production holiday.  There are other tax deductions that merit more scrutiny and possible repeal as well.

2. See answer to previous question.  In addition, we should consider and explore a general sales tax that is revenue neutral for Montana full time residents.  In other words, any sales tax would need to be offset by a personal income tax deduction or credit or simply lowering the existing rates so that the net effect on full time residents is neutral. I support broadening the existing local resort tax so that it is applicable to more areas or the entire state. My view is that visitors and part time residents need to pay their fair share for services and infrastructure. The failure to accomplish that unfairly burdens full time Montanan citizens.

3. Not that I can think of at this time.

4. By promoting policies that encourage a livable wage, affordable housing and broadening the economic base beyond tourism, retail and construction. The growth in low wage retail jobs alone is not going to provide sustained wage income that will allow folks afford the cost of living here.

5. An article from Outside Online summarizes my views nicely, located at: www.outsideonline.com/2256531/why-you-dont-want-states-managing-public-land

6. Economic issues: Affordable housing and income inequality, the continued decline of the living standards of everyone not in the top 10 percent. Infrastructure in HD 7 is not keeping up with the population growth and that is degrading the quality of life.