HD-7: Garner favors diversified tax base, infrastructure investment

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Frank Garner

FRANK GARNER

Age: 56

Party: Republican, incumbent

Family: Married to wife Teresa for 38 years, two sons who are policeman and one daughter who is a clinical lab scientist.

Occupation: Security Consultant

Background: Graduate of Flathead High School, Flathead Valley Community College. Retired Chief of Police, Kalispell Police Department; past president/board member Kalispell Rotary, C.A.R.E., Evergreen Lions, C.A.R.E., member Flathead Valley Community College Foundation

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 budget is a complex balance between the need for services and our ability to pay. We should continue to look for ways to diversify our tax base. Income tax has become nearly 60 percent of our state revenues. When there is another recession and income tax receipts drop we can expect significant interruptions in the delivery of services without changes. As a state we should shift more of the burden for paying for services to the twelve million visitors we have each year and reduce our reliance on income earners in Montana. Our priorities should include education, money for school safety, infrastructure investments, affordable housing, workforce training, drug treatment alternatives, controlling health-care costs and in-home senior care.

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

A. Diversification of our revenue sources and creating a sustainable reserve can reduce the fluctuations that often result in the shortfalls like the ones experienced this year. We continue to rely primarily on property tax to support local government and income tax to support state government. While a statewide sales tax is not the answer, we should consider giving revenue options to local governments that can be strictly controlled by taxpayers to help meet shortfalls and rely more on our state’s visitors to help pay for services.

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

A. According to a recent University of Montana study, the HELP Act (Medicaid Expansion) is providing health care to over 90,000 low-income Montanans and has been an economic benefit to the state. The study shows the program to date pays for itself, has increased workforce participation for enrollees, has brought hundreds of millions of dollars into Montana and supports thousands of jobs. There are, however, threats to its long-term sustainability. I prefer a legislative solution that can provide important improvements to sustain and renew the program. Those improvements include requiring workforce training and participation when practical and more robust asset testing. Failure to place some restraints on the program could jeopardize our ability to provide for and support education, case management services for those with disabilities, public safety improvements and investing in infrastructure in the future.

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

A. We need to invest in infrastructure and support a reasonable regulatory environment that fosters job growth and a bright future for our state. Montana must work to reduce one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, provide resources to combat the opioid crisis and provide for the needs of a “graying” population. We need to work to improve the expectation of our foster families and the over 4,000 children in foster care that they have rights and will be supported. Our community college has become a critical component of our community’s success and we need to work to partner with them on workforce training and providing continuing education opportunities. Montana needs to develop a comprehensive and strategic plan to make our schools safer and we need to make our laws related to driving under the influence more impactful.

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

A. From my work on your police department to service with groups like Rotary, Lions, Big Brothers and Sisters and C.A.R.E., I’ve spent most of my life in service to Kalispell. Through that service I’ve learned to be an effective problem solver and collaborator with a proven track record of results. In the Legislature I’ve been involved in coalitions that have worked on some of this state’s most complex issues. They include investing in infrastructure, providing health care to the working poor, campaign finance reform, investing in enhanced 911 technologies, improving access to life-saving drug applications and many others. It takes more than good ideas to produce results. It takes a passion to serve that transcends politics as usual and that puts the needs of our community first. It’s been my privilege to be your representative in House District 7 and I’m asking for your continued support.

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