SD-4: Challenger wants to consider sales tax on tourists

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Diane Taylor-Mahnke

Age: 75

Political party: Democrat

Family: Widow of Dr. James Mahnke

Education: BA in education from the University of Montana

Occupation: Business office representative and supervisor at Mountain Bell and Helena Flats School librarian and math teacher.

Background: Currently: Board Member of 350 Glacier (an affiliate of, an international organization dedicated to reversing climate change); first vice president of Flathead County Democratic Women; Previously: president of Northwest Montana Reading Council; board member of Citizens For a Better Flathead; co-moderator of Community Congregational United Church of Christ; Deer Park School Board

Q: A slate of budget cuts were made in 2017 to address a $227 million shortfall caused by less than anticipated revenue and an expensive fire season. What should the priorities be in the state budget in the next legislative session?

A: The priorities of the voters I have spoken with are: 1. health care, 2. water quality of our lakes and rivers, 3. quality public education, 4. keeping public lands public, and 5. support for veterans.

Q: Do you support a sales tax or other tax increases as a way to shore up the budget and increase revenue?

A: A 2 percent sales tax on the $3.3 billion spent by the 12.5 million visitors to our state in 2017 would have added $66 million to the state coffers. It is hard not to support a plan that asks visitors to pay something for the public services they use while here. But the tax would have to be developed in such a way that Montana citizens would not incur any additional burden. In fact, the goal would be to lower taxes for Montanans.

Q: Montana’s Medicaid expansion program is set to expire in 2019. Should the state renew this program?

A: Yes, the state should renew Medicaid. “Medicaid expansion in Montana now insures about 93,950 people, generates more than $500 million a year in health care spending, has provided $902 million in health-care services and saved about $40 million in Medicaid benefits,” according to a report by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana. According to the same report it has also led to 5,000 jobs and $280 million in personal income. “This has been such a good thing for Montana” said John Goodrow, chief executive officer of Benefis Health System in Great Falls. I agree with John Goodrow. (Great Falls Tribune, March 8, 2018)

Q: Which other issues would you like to see addressed by the Legislature?

A: Affordable Housing. Housing cost burdens are considerably higher in Flathead County compared to averages across the state according to a study released August 21 by the non-profit Montana Budget and Policy Center. A legislative interim committee has 3 draft bills to address this issue. It will be a priority for me.

Q: Why are you the right choice to represent your district?

A: As your voice in Helena I will uphold the Constitution of the State of Montana, paying particular attention to the following articles.

1. “Government is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” (Art.II, Sec. 1)

2. “All persons have the right to a clean and healthful environment” (Art.II, Sec. 3)

3. “All persons have the right to pursue life’s basic necessities, including health and happiness” (Art.II, Sec. 3)

I will work with Senators from all parties so that government can work for everyone.

I am not taking donations or endorsements from special interests. The interests of the voters will be my only priority.

I will treat all my fellow legislators with respect and make restoring civility to political discourse a priority.

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