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.
House District 6 candidates Democrat Brenda Talbert and Republican Carl Glimm come from different backgrounds, which are reflected in their opinions about the top issues of this year’s race.
The winner on Nov. 6 will succeed Rep. Bill Beck, a Republican, in the Legislature. Beck ran for Senate District 2 but lost in the Republican primary to Dee Brown.
Glimm, a lifelong Montanan, was raised in Conrad and has lived in Kila for four years. Glimm said his experience as a small business owner and employer will benefit him in Helena.
“I know how business works, know what it’s like to have people on the payroll and know what workman’s comp means. At one time, I paid 50 cents for every $1 for workman’s comp and that makes it difficult to compete,” Glimm said.
Glimm said increasing jobs and retaining workers in Montana is a top concern, along with maintaining a quality education system and lowering taxes.
“I’m worried about what we’re leaving for our kids. I want them to be able to come back, have a job and love all the things we love about why we want to live here,” Glimm said.
Talbert has lived in Kalispell for more than two years. As a retired educator — teaching for 13 years in Colorado and 22 in North Carolina — Talbert said she has been a lifelong learner and problem solver that could easily transfer to politics.
“I had to be informed about current educational policies as well as new and innovative ways to reach the students I taught,” Talbert said.
Maintaining a quality education system and protecting workers’ rights is at the top of Talbert’s priorities.
“I am really concerned about all the talk about privatizing education and taking money from public education to put toward vouchers or charter schools and private schools. I think public education is the backbone of our society,” Talbert said.
Vilifying teachers or workers for problematic systems, such as underfunded pensions, is not the answer, Talbert said.
“I’m very concerned about our teachers and workers in general being seen as the problem and not the answer,” Talbert said. “If you have workers that provide the job that make your business work, then they should have a voice in their working conditions, what you ask them to do and how much they get paid. I know everybody is strapped right now and that’s a sore issue, but I think the companies that survive and thrive in an economy like this are the ones that see their workers as an asset and treat them as such.”
Tax reform is a priority for Glimm, who would like to see lower taxes, particularly property taxes.
“I believe we can use the opportunity Montana has with responsible natural resource development to better fund our education system and allow us to reduce the burden on taxpayers in the form of property tax relief,” Glimm said.
Talbert said there are always places to reform taxes.
“I do think that in our state, in our nation too, we need to really look at tax codes and make sure they are fair and that most of the weight is not on any one group,” Talbert said.
Glimm views the $457 million state surplus as a more long-term solution to property tax relief.
Talbert said keeping some in a “rainy day account” would be practical for emergencies such as wildfires. She also sees the surplus as an opportunity to invest in education and begin balancing the underfunded pension system.
“They need to address it because that was a promise. I know that it’s in such a deep hole I don’t think our surplus will bring it completely up, but I think we could start the process,” Talbert said.
Glimm said the state pension system should be changed from defined benefits to defined contributions.
“Our system of defined benefit[s] is unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible. It will be difficult, but we must deal with this now rather than kick the can down the road to the future,” Glimm said. “The longer we wait the bigger the problem will become.”
Glimm and Talbert have different opinions on the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid.
Glimm is not a proponent of either.
“I think the federal government should contain itself to the responsibilities outlined in the Constitution, like passing a budget,” Glimm said. “The Medicaid provision is another underfunded mandate that the federal government is pushing at our state.”
Talbert said the health-care law is a step in the right direction. Like education, health care should not be a for-profit business, she said, although she wanted to see a single-payer system similar to Canada’s.
“I don’t think anybody should have to worry if they get sick they are going to lose everything they own,” Talbert said. “The only thing that’s ever stood between me and my doctor was not some kind of health care issue or the government. What stood between me and my doctor was insurance. Insurance decides whether I get care or not. Insurance decides whether I’m worthy enough to keep alive or not.”
Through her board position at the Kalispell Senior Center, Talbert has gotten to know the needs of the senior population and she feels Medicaid should be expanded.
“This is America. We take care of our own,” Talbert said.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.