1. Why are you running for office and what talents do you bring to the job?
I’m running for office because I want to help. Being an American means having freedoms and it also means being responsible for participating in our democracy however we are capable. It is my civic duty to step forward and say: here’s what I can do.
During my career as a Postmaster, I also served as Editor for the National Association of Postmasters, which meant I got to help both Members of Congress and my fellow Postmasters understand the role that the Postal Service plays in keeping our country working together toward a common goal. I learned how it is that a government agency can act like a business, while also respecting the constitutional mandate to treat all citizens equally.
I can bring this non-partisan understanding of civics to our citizen legislature. In my first term as Representative I passed a law to give schools options for funding improvements, and I passed a law to help get city and county roads and other job-creating infrastructure built. I’m running for office to build on these successes with more bi-partisan solutions that matter to the people of Great Falls.
2. What issues will be your priorities as an elected official?
My priorities for this session are to continue providing constituent services: interfacing between government agencies and constituents is the best part of my job. It is fulfilling, and helps me to understand where we can remove barriers to equity and access to services for our neighbors. I will introduce the Veterans Bill of Rights to help veterans transition back to life in Montana through better access to healthcare, job services, mental health service and housing. I will also introduce a bill to help Montana consumers and small business owners access money-saving energy technologies.
Serving on the Judiciary and Law and Justice Interim Committees has given me special knowledge of the challenges and opportunities we have to be smart on crime. I am focusing on a number of policies to advance justice through investment in community-based, proven programs that disrupt high-risk behavior and include relapse prevention.
3. What impact do you see the COVID-19 outbreak having on the state budget and services and how would you deal with that?
Montana’s economy is projected by the Bureau of Economic Research to be in a recession “more severe than anything in the postwar period” which will last for years. Even so Montana’s finances going into this time of uncertainty are strong. General Fund expenditures have been less than budgeted and the Legislative Fiscal Division projects that our reserves will get us through the next few years, so we have time to plan for the shortfall expected in 2023.
We depend on individual and corporate income tax for nearly half of our state budget, so when the shortfall arrives, our community needs to be ready to rebound . We should take advantage of opportunities to limit paperwork and streamline enrollment for aid, expand eligibility for home and community based services, and protect access to high quality child care as we invest federal COVID funding. A healthy, secure population is the most important driver for a thriving economy.
4. Are you someone who believes in bipartisanship, a staunch defender of your party’s beliefs or does your approach depend on the issue? Describe your approach on getting bills passed.
I came to the state legislature from being an activist for non-partisan issues. I advocated for all my postal customers and I worked with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which is a non-partisan, faith based lobbying group which focuses on peace and human dignity.
That experience leads me to find shared values with people even when we don’t agree on everything. I am someone who prefers to focus on solutions rather than on problems.
5. What challenges do you see specifically for the Great Falls area and what can you do, if anything, to help as a state lawmaker?
State tax policy has made Cascade county overly dependent on property taxes. I support several bills that would strengthen local governments’ ability to raise revenue and improve the fairness of our tax system. One bill would allow local governments to keep up with inflation when making their budgets, and the other would give a tax credit to families whose property taxes exceed a percentage of their income. This will allow lower and middle income families stay in their homes and invest in their futures.
Another local issue is that demand for affordable housing is outstripping the supply. We need to develop tools like flexible financing that allow developers to layer all the various public and private programs together to make projects viable. A state housing tax credit could employ construction workers immediately, while providing the stable housing that will be key to our economic recovery.