This is part of an ongoing series of previews of local legislative races in this fall’s general election. Early voting starts Oct. 9; Election Day is Nov. 6.
Democratic candidate Diane Frances Taylor is challenging Republican incumbent Randy Brodehl in the House District 7 race.
This is the first time Taylor, a retired school librarian and middle school math teacher, has run for office.
“Lately the situation just seems so extreme. I think there’s some really important issues that need to be addressed,” Taylor said.
Although Taylor doesn’t live in District 7, she said she spends much of her time shopping, banking and eating in the district.
Brodehl who does live in District 7, brings experience to his campaign having served on the Appropriations Committee during the last session and on the Audit Committee during the interim. Brodehl said he wanted to continue being a “consistent solid vote for conservative government.”
Brodehl retired as Kalispell fire chief in 2008 and now owns a custom cabinetry business with his wife, Joyce.
Keeping workers in the Flathead Valley is something Brodehl and Taylor agree on, but they have a different take on getting there.
“Right now, we have a job base on the east side on the Bakken oil fields, and that’s taking the primary bread winners from our families here and sending them across the state, making us have these kind of pseudo single-family units that makes it tough for a family to be strong,” Brodehl said.
He said that local natural resources should be utilized and the local logging industry resurrected.
“I think we need to be able to use our natural resources and not take anything away from tourism. When you look at the log trucks coming through from Canada and our forests are dying from bug kill we have created a travesty for our families,” Brodehl said.
Taylor agreed that jobs need to be maintained in the valley, but she is focused on preserving the environment in Northwest Montana for future generations and maintaining a strong tourism industry.
“Some people think of it as a gold mine. I think of it as the goose that laid a golden egg. A gold mine only has a certain amount of gold. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It doesn’t make any difference what you do. The goose is a living thing. If you get greedy and kill it, you’re out of golden eggs. Our goose is clean air, clean water and scenic vistas,” Taylor said.
The candidates have opposing views when it comes to the Affordable Health Care Act.
“I think it was a mistake,” Brodehl said. “I think it takes the decision-making process out of the hands of individuals where it belongs. I think America was built on allowing us to take a risk.”
He noted what he considers the government’s poor record for managing social programs.
“Why would we want them to step in and take over one more?” Brodehl said.
Rather than taking rights away, Taylor, a proponent of the Affordable Health Care Act, considers access to medical treatment a basic right.
“I don’t think it went far enough. It’s a start. It’s not perfect, but we need to do something. Every week I read in the paper somebody has to hold a benefit to pay for medical expenses and that’s not right,” Taylor said.
Brodehl views the $457 million state surplus as taxpayer money that should be returned, but said there’s more to the issue.
“About a month ago we spent about $50 million on wildfires. The governor declared it an emergency situation, plus we have a drought emergency in several counties and we have to finish out the budget year. Those are all things that will come out of the surplus,” Brodehl said. “At the end of the day, if we have money left over, we need to give it back to the people.”
Taylor said the state surplus should be used to provide $400 tax refunds to homeowners. She also proposed the idea of a state bank to hold surplus money to offer affordable loans for veterans, college students, first-time home buyers, farms and small businesses. Interest could be earmarked for the underbalanced pension fund.
She added: “Expand the bed tax to all Montana communities and deposit the proceeds in the pension fund.”
Rather than patch the state pension system every legislative session, Brodehl said it needs to be changed from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.
Regarding property tax reform, Brodehl supports a flat tax where everyone pays the same rate as a middle ground to the current system, which is based on property value.
“If you drive on the road and I drive on the road, should one of us pay more because we live in a different neighborhood?” Brodehl asked.
Taylor said she believes in progressive taxes for businesses and homeowners.
Owners of two or more homes should be taxed higher for each additional home, she said, and a corporation should pay a higher tax then a small business
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.