League of Women Voters questionnaire answers
1. What are the most important challenges facing our state and how do you propose to address them?
The Covid-19 pandemic will re-order priorities for the state government. Maintaining policies that reduce deaths and excessive health care costs should be the first priority while maximizing economic activity as much as possible. Excessive deaths will by their nature hurt economic activity regardless of government policy to control transmission.
The Covid-19 related policy choices we make should account for issues Montana is or will be facing. We have an aging workforce with increasing retirements and insufficient young people to replace retirees and allow growth of our economy. Developing our young adults job skills and promoting family friendly policies will be key to health and well-being of Montanans and its economy.
2. Which solutions to climate change do you think are most important and most feasible for Montana?
Montana has many resources to address climate change. First and most important are the knowledge, skills, and abilities of our people. Developing a can do attitude toward changing our energy sector is the most important factor. Maintaining Montana’s role as a net energy exporter to other regions is part of a healthy Montana economy. Public opinion outside of Montana will continue to diminish fossil fuel dependence. Increasing wind and solar energy installations, training and employment should be part of our policy. Easing the impact of transition from fossil fuel technologies on people and communities should be a State priority. Done right low carbon emission technology should be an educational, research and job creation opportunity.
3. What, if any, specific steps will you take to address inequalities facing women, especially women in minority populations, in our state?
Maternal benefits for working women will help maintain their career track. Six months of unemployment benefits with job protection after childbirth reduces the need for the highest cost daycare and makes daycare available for older infants. This is also an equity issue since seasonal workers get unemployment compensation for up to six months. Childcare spending accounts, reduced cost daycare, tax credits can all be used to reduce childcare costs. Domestic violence remains a significant issue. Policies to reduce this and effectively discipline abusers needs to be available to all women regardless of geography or ethnicity. State coordination with the multiple jurisdictions involved with missing and murdered indigenous women is essential.
4. What should state government do, if anything, to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12?
The state government has a primary responsibility to assure all Montana children receive an equitable, quality public education. Maintaining educational standards that are consistent with national and evidence-based recommendations is essential. This should not be delegated to the private sector although some parents may choose to pay to have their children in a private school. Ongoing efforts to increase teachers in rural areas need to supported. Competitive wages and benefits for teachers is foundational for quality education. Pre-K programs have been shown to be cost effective and should be encouraged.
5. What should our state do over the long term to ensure healthcare access for all?
Medicaid expansion needs to be permanent. Cost inefficiencies in healthcare financing need to be addressed. Most independent assessments of our health system show that the majority of waste, fraud, and abuse occurs in or because of the unnecessary complexity of the financing system. Transparency of healthcare cost structures especially medication distribution need to be improved. Development of skilled healthcare workers should be part of state educational and job training priorities. Rural healthcare facilities and physicians should be supported to assure Montanans have access to primary care and emergency stabilization wherever they are in the state. “Surprise” medical billing should be prevented.