Posted: May 25, 2012 9:24 PM by Marnee Banks | MTN
Updated: May 29, 2012 8:02 AM
Capitol reporter Marnee Banks has posed questions to each of the candidates who are running to become the next governor of Montana.
Here is how Republican candidate Neil Livingstone replied to the questions.
Currently the State of Montana is predicted to end the biennium with more than $400 million in the general fund. What will you do with this money?
I am not convinced that the state will have a $400 million surplus, but if we do it should be applied toward the $3.5 billion unfunded state pension deficit.
The State of Montana is facing a huge deficit in its pension system. How do you plan on addressing this?
They growing pension deficit is systematic of the mismanagement of state government by the Schweitzer Administration and must be addressed, as noted above. I believe, first of all, in a two-tier system governing the retirement systems for state workers and teachers. Following recent reforms I the auto and other industries, new workers should pay more into the system, have more rigorous standards for retirement (including a retirement age of perhaps 70), and reduced benefits. As to how we address the existing $3.5 billion deficit, we cannot tax Montanans any more. The only way to make up this shortfall is by missive resource development, similar to that in North Dakota and Wyoming, and use the various severance and other taxes to address the pension deficit and the state's other needs, like education and rural health care. I recently visited the Black Thunder Coal Mine in Gillette, Wyoming, the largest surface coal mine in the world. Every day 80 trains, each with a 150 cars carrying coal, leave the mine, and each train pays $48,000 in taxes to the state, counties, and localities. Think what we could do with similar revenues in Montana.
Are you happy with the state's current eminent domain laws? If not, what would you like to see changed?
I am not a supporter of the state's current eminent domain laws, and would tighten them up to ensure that any land taken by eminent domain has a clear and undeniable public purpose. On the other hand, I might try and use eminent domain to seize federal lands which have been mismanaged.
How would you like to see Fish, Wildlife & Parks manage wolves?
As I have often noted in my speeches, isn't it about time we reintroduce the gray wolf to Central Park in New York City and the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Let's see how the government bureaucrats and the elitist financial contributors to radical environmental groups like it when people more than 2200 miles away make critical decisions, without really consulting them, that affect their security and livelihoods. It's time for the state of Montana to take over control of its wildlife issues, and we will determine whether there should be ANY gray wolves roaming this state. A gray wolf was recently spotted on a schoolyard in Kalispell. Do we really want to wait until a young child is killed by a wolf to take action?
If the U.S. Supreme Court keeps the Affordable Care Act intact, an estimated 82,000 Montanans will be added to the Medicaid system by 2019.How do you plan on paying for this?
I will oppose the Affordable Care Act at every level. It is unconstitutional and cannot be allowed to stand. It is full of unfunded mandates that will bankrupt the state and is un-American to its core. I will doing everything I can, working with other governors and the Congress, to see that it is overturned.
Last session the Montana Legislature tightened up the state's DUI laws. Do you believe they are adequate? If not, where would you like to see changes?
I believe that the state's DUI laws have been totally perverted by the state's Department of Revenue and are being used to illegally seize the property of private citizens in this state. No one wants drunk drivers on the roads, and the penalties should be severe for repeat offenders, but the effort to seize taverns and bars where drunk drivers were allegedly served, without due process (or force them to sell their licenses) is appalling and cannot be allowed to stand.
Montana is rich in natural resources. What is your plan for developing wind, oil, gas and coal?
We have more than 200 environmental groups, funded largely by out-of-state elitists, operating in Montana. In alliance with left-of-center politicians, job killing judges and trial lawyers, they have created an odious regulatory environment that has undermined the state's business climate and brought natural resource development to a near standstill. It should come as no surprise that there are only 18 oil rigs operating in Montana, but more than 240 across the border in North Dakota, where the regulatory environment is far more pragmatic and streamlined. We must take the offensive against the environmental extremists. First and foremost, in a effort to curtail serial law suits, Montana needs to adopt new rules requiring that plaintiffs have some "skin in the game," that is to say a equity in the case, before they can sue. Secondly, I support some kind of loser pays system that will punish those filing frivolous law suits. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) needs to be totally revamped and its mission revised. Today it is one of the chief impediments to the creation of jobs and opportunities in the state, and this needs to be changed. In the future, DEQ must be tasked with facilitating and expediting the development of our resources. State employees who persist in unnecessarily delaying worthwhile projects need to be given the boot and if the agency doesn't respond aggressively to this new orientation, I will ask the state legislature to defund it and we'll start over with a newly constituted agency. Finally, we must improve our business climate by ending the corporate income tax and the equipment tax, and by implementing REAL tort reform and workers' comp reform.
Explain where you stand on abortion, homosexual marriage, & the death penalty.
I am endorsed by Montana Right to Life and support parental notification, the unborn victims bill, and other legislation that was vetoed by the Governor during the last legislative session. I support the death penalty and would like to see the appeals process shortened. Montanans have already spoken on gay marriage, determining that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Are you proposing any changes to Montana's tax structure? If so please explain.
I have a comprehensive plan for tax reform, along with natural resources development. As noted earlier, I advocate getting rid of the corporate income tax and the equipment tax, and I want to reduce property taxes across the state. To this end, we can offset such taxes with the income generated by strong natural resources development. Consideration should also be given to a flat tax, which I believe would generate more income for the state and reduce the costs involved, both to the taxpayers and the Department of Revenue.
Should corporations be allowed to spend money to influence Montana elections? Why or why not?
Both corporations and unions should be allowed to spend money to influence Montana elections because it is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.
Do you think Montana voters trust their elected officials? Please explain.
Montana voters do NOT trust their elected officials and I aim to restore trust by never lying to the public and by doing the things that I pledge to do. Whether people support me or oppose me, they'll always know where I stand on the issues.
Why should someone vote for you?
I am not a professional politician. Instead, I'm a businessman and it's a businessman that Montana needs as Governor. Certainly we don't need another lawyer. We have real problems in this state, including high unemployment (and underemployment), a $3.5 billion state pension deficit, and a declining tax base. Montana ranks 47th in per capita GDP, down next to Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi. That's right, we're near the bottom of the barrel. Sixty-five percent of all parents I this state need to work, often at two jobs, just to keep food on the table and their children in school. Thousands of struggling Montanans are commuting to the Bakken every week, far from their families, in search of work. Most of my primary opponents have held public office and none did anything remarkable or even memorable when they had the opportunity. Thus, if you want business-as-usual, I'm not your candidate. But if you want change, real change, then I promise you I'll deliver it. Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, recently wrote: "Were Livingstone elected Montana Governor, one gets the impression he would kick ass, and that the timid and naysayers would do well to keep out of his way." Gary has it right. My running mate, Sen. Ryan Zinke, and I are blue collar Republicans that will work 24/7 to create private sector jobs in this state. We've even promised not to take salaries until we create 1000 new private sector jobs in Montana. We have the leadership and experience to transform this state and, by God, we'll do it.