State House District 47
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Kathy Kelker (Winner)
What are the most important challenges facing our state and how do you propose to address them?
Which solutions to climate change do you think are most important and most feasible for Montana?
What, if any, specific steps will you take to address inequalities facing women, especially women in minority populations, in our state?
What should state government do, if anything, to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12?
What should our state do over the long term to ensure healthcare access for all?
Montana faces three challenges: 1) economic losses due to the pandemic, 2) changes in leading industries, and 3) mental health/addiction problems. Because of closures during the pandemic, businesses have experienced unexpected losses. Assistance must be provided through access to available grants and loans. In addition to the pandemic, Montana has experienced changes in its leading industries. Agriculture is struggling due to severe weather and international competition, and coal companies are going bankrupt. Adjusting to these changes requires re-training of workers and greater emphasis on a productive service economy. Mental health/addiction services were hit hard with budget cuts. Funding community-based services is the solution.
Montana needs infrastructure to meet the goal of a carbon-free future. Montana’s energy grid must be up-graded to handle different sources of energy. This effort alone would be an important step forward, but there is also a need to encourage green energy companies to grow in Montana. The way to entice new businesses is to provide incentives for companies and rate payers to embrace green energy. Here is a list of potential incentives:
• Federal solar tax credit
• Storage payments (storing generated electricity in batteries)
• Tax exemptions on property taxes for solar home owners and businesses
• Net metering (giving solar homeowners bill credits from their utilities.
• Paying higher rates to companies that expand solar energy.
Despite their resilience, Montana’s women continue to face tough challenges to achieving social and economic equality. American Indian women and other women of color are particularly disadvantaged. I would propose the following solutions to support equal treatment for women:
• Adopt policies for paid family leave.
• Increase availability of quality and affordable child care.
• Provide technical assistance and loans to small businesses for women.
• Increase services for domestic violence survivors.
• Provide financial education in public schools to give young women the knowledge to build their own financial futures.
• Invest more in technical education for women.
• Increase access for women's reproductive health.
In 2005 the Montana legislature created a new funding formula to equalize public school support. This change was successful in distributing funds more equitably, but it didn’t settle all problems. One remaining issue occurs in larger districts where per pupil funding is not based on each student generating the same amount. When large districts calculate their budgets, the first pupil generates the maximum rate, but the second and subsequent pupils generate reduced amounts up to an end point. This system is based on the theory that larger districts have economy of scale. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t work all of the time.This inequity needs to be addressed so larger districts are allotted full funding for every student.
All Americans like citizens in every advanced country should have access to healthcare, but this change can only occur at the federal level. At the state level, Montana has taken an important step by extending the state’s Medicaid Expansion. Since Montana first passed Medicaid Expansion, research has shown almost 10% of Montanans have signed up for the program and now have access to primary and preventive care. Those receiving Medicaid report having better health and access to services, including mental health and addiction treatment. In Montana, there are aspects of medical care the legislature can support to improve access:
• Medical residencies;
• Education for mid-level healthcare providers and licensed addiction counselors.
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