May 25, 2012 9:46 AM by Marnee Banks - Montana's News Station

Gubernatorial Profile: Heather Margolis

HELENA- Capitol reporter Marnee Banks has posed questions to each of the candidates who are running to become the next governor of Montana.

Biography: Montana Gubernatorial Candidate Heather Margolis has nearly two decades of experience working in the field of education and national service. She serves as the ServeNext representative for the State of Montana, advocating for expansion of national service programs in the United States of America and in the State of Montana. As well, she is the Executive Director of Montana Education Partnership, a non-profit organization in Helena. The organization works with various stakeholders to integrate educational best practices to spark students' intellectual curiosity and academic engagement. Margolis is an AmeriCorps alumnus and has her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado Boulder and her Masters Degree in Education from New York University's Steinhardt School of Education. After teaching in New York and Philadelphia, Margolis left the classroom to work for City Year Greater Philadelphia, training corps members to provide in school service-learning and academic support as well as facilitate structured after school programs. In 2005, Margolis moved to Washington DC taking on a new role as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the National Service-Learning Partnership at AED. Now, Heather and her husband live in Helena, Montana and have two sons.


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?
My administration will support setting any 2013 budget surplus aside until two projects are completed in a timely manner:

My administration will launch the "Montana's Road Map to Prosperity" Project -- Whatever the actual general fund surplus is, my administration will leverage a small amount of these resources to support a project called "Montana's Road Map to Prosperity." We need the answers to the most difficult questions we have in Montana. This project will engage the most qualified and experienced professionals available to help the leaders in the legislature of the State of Montana, leaders in government and leaders in the private sector to better understand how Montanans can truly prosper into the future. Why do so many Montanans continue to live in poverty? Why do Montana employers have to recruit their high-tech, programming, energy and biotechnology experts and mid-level employees from out-of-State? Why have high-technology, biotechnology, energy and other future-employers thrived in our neighboring states, while ignoring the opportunities we offer in Montana for them? Why do so many of our most qualified and accomplished students leave Montana after graduating from high school? Why do so many of our youths drop out from high school? What are the "game changers" that we can achieve that will make a long-term positive impact on our economy?

There are too many unanswered questions in Montana. Too often, we are afraid to ask the questions and even more afraid of the answers. This project will help to change that. 2013 surplus funds will be used to support this initiative.

There is opportunity for improved efficiency in every State government, even one so well run as Montana's. My administration will invest in a government efficiency audit, evaluating every agency according the highest professional standards of efficiency, effectiveness and high-quality customer service. This audit will be conducted in compliance with the Constitution of the State of Montana and all local, State and Federal laws. Leaders of labor unions, environmental organizations, employer organizations and other stakeholders will be fully-engaged in the creation, conduct and evaluation of this audit to help ensure that fairness and accuracy are achieved as part of this project. Surplus 2013 funds will be used to support this initiative.

I offer qualified support for a limited tax refund/rebate to Montana's lowest income taxpayers. I understand that there will be a strong push for the equivalent for a tax rebate or a tax refund of this money. If such a rebate or refund of any amount is proposed in the 2013 Montana State Legislature, I would support it, if it was provided first to Montana taxpayers who have the lowest incomes. I would not support such a refund or rebate taking place prior to the two previously outlined projects being completed. Any backfill of programs stripped of funding will be considered based on their return on investment for example funding education upfront is a better investment for economy opposed to lost wages of dropouts or worse possible costs incurred for incarceration. Preventive health measures save resources and high costs emergency costs over the long run.

The State of Montana is facing a huge deficit in its pension system. How do you plan on addressing this?
Gov. Brian Schweitzer's administration has developed a plan to address this issue that involves increased employee contributions and one-time State contributions. This plan should be given serious consideration and a chance to work.

Are you happy with the state's current eminent domain laws? If not, what would you like to see changed?
No Answer Provided

How would you like to see Fish, Wildlife & Parks manage wolves?
The last thing we need is the Federal government coming back in to attempt to do what we in Montana are most qualified to accomplish, the effective management of our natural resources and wildlife. We need to preserve a healthy and well managed wolf population, with the flexibility to protect our livestock producers and game hunting in extreme circumstances.

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 am confident that a single-payer system promises to best serve Montanans and all of America. Still, if the new healthcare laws are allowed to be fully implemented, effective implementation of the new healthcare reform laws promises to do a much better job of guaranteeing improved access for all to affordable, high quality healthcare. In that case, the new laws do expand the number of Montanans who will qualify for Medicaid - a program that is largely funded by federal tax dollars. If, for some reason, Montanans are asked to cover some of the costs of the Medicaid expansion, I will work with our congressional delegation to ensure that Montana is fully reimbursed by the Federal government.

If the new laws are blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court, we should move quickly toward a single-payer system that efficiently guarantees access to affordable, high quality healthcare. We must use this as an opportunity to improve our healthcare system, rather than go back to a broken, failed employer-based system of health insurance.

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?
Many of us are infuriated by the headlines that inform us of somebody getting their 8th or 9th DUI. The new DUI laws are useful and will hopefully save lives. I do favor an emphasis on treatment and prevention for people who are unable to control their addiction to alcohol, rather than throwing people in jail without dealing with the problem. A number of the programs currently in place in Montana are effective, such as requiring multiple DUI offenders to use technology to prove they have not been drinking prior to starting a vehicle. We need to expand these programs and emphasize treatment to prevent future DUI infractions. As well, we need to incent defense attorneys whose clients are multiple offenders to work with their clients to achieve better prevention and treatment.

Montana is rich in natural resources. What is your plan for developing wind, oil, gas and coal?
We need to leverage sustainable development of our natural resources, with an emphasis and investment in reliance on renewable energy. Already, there are some very exciting and effective wind-farms that are operational. We need more. In the meantime, as we rely on extractive industries for much of our electric power, we need to do so in an environmentally sensitive manner. We need to enforce the laws that are on the books. When we do allow for natural resource development of school trust lands, we need to get the highest market value in return for the ability to develop our resources.

Explain where you stand on abortion, homosexual marriage, & the death penalty.
I am pro-choice. Montana should pass a law guaranteeing access to health care for all Montanans. Montanans should reject proposed laws or initiatives that limit access to women specific reproductive health services, information or referrals. We need to protect Montanans' right to determine how best to care for themselves and their families without the intervention of government.

I favor changing Montana's Constitution to allow gay couples or lesbian couples to marry or form civil unions. This is simple common sense. The Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people. People should not be discriminated against, including gay and lesbian couples.

I oppose the death penalty. We cannot release an innocent person from the grave. Our justice system makes mistakes and our resources are too thin. We have to be a better society than turning to killing people in order to protect ourselves.

Are you proposing any changes to Montana's tax structure? If so please explain.
I support the repeal of the Gas Tax holiday. Newly drilled wells are taxed at a much lower rate, 0.76 percent versus 9.26 Wells are subject to the lower oil and gas production tax rates for 12 months for vertical wells and 18 months for horizontal wells. Which is why it is called a Holiday. There is no doubt that our eastern Montana communities need more infrastructure support, with failing water treatments systems to extreme housing shortages we need to work with the oil and gas industry to determine is taxation is option or perhaps there are other alternative to addressing these systemic infrastructure challenges.

The period of substantially lower tax rates has become known as a tax "holiday."

I think we should reconsider and revise the production deduction - corporate subsidy. Companies would still be able to take this deduction on their federal taxes.

I support passage of the bonding bill, which the 2011 Legislature rejected, to authorize $100 million to pay for construction of a number of state and university system buildings, a veterans' home and a new Historical Society museum. These investments create jobs and are very important. While I support this common sense initiative, we must prioritize improving services for our Veterans and increasing access to our two-years colleges. I would work with the legislature to reevaluate the tax holiday for oil and gas industry.

Should corporations be allowed to spend money to influence Montana elections? Why or why not?
Corporations are not, in fact, people. I support ballot initiative I-166.

Corporations should be banned from direct financial support for all candidates for service in public office. They should not be allowed to spend money on so called "independent expenditures." I support reversal of the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision. I support Senator Max Baucus's effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent corporate financial contributions from dominating Montana's elections and elections throughout our nation.

I respect the fact that corporations and companies are very important and employ many of us in a manner that allow us to provide for our families and to give back to our communities. Nonetheless, the many lessons of Montana's history regarding corporate exploitation of our citizens, workers and natural resources should not be forgotten.

Corporations are comprised of citizens who of their own volition can contribute to candidates and vote as they choose.

Do you think Montana voters trust their elected officials? Please explain.
I have a great deal of respect for public service. For the most part, our elected officials can and should be trusted. They deserve our support and our help as well. We will be in a much better position regarding our ability to trust elected officials, when we ban all corporate contributions and independent expenditures.

Why should someone vote for you?
Steve Nelsen and I are crusading for service in Montana. Throughout our careers, we continue to observe the power of service and volunteerism throughout Montana and in our nation. And yet, it is not uncommon for service to be among the first on the chopping block when budget priorities are set at the national and State level. In order to help better educate thought leaders and elected officials, I have joined with Steve to help highlight the powerful impact of service on Montana's communities, including the important positive results of service to Montana's most vulnerable and at-risk citizens, including children, seniors and those of us who are less fortunate. Service and civic engagement are key bi-partisan strategies to strengthening Montana's economy, education, environment, energy, health care and nutrition. None of the other candidates have discussed the powerful impact of service in Montana communities. They do not seem to understand the importance of working to break down silos and provide leadership to prioritize service among local, county, State and Federal government, in partnership with our education and health systems, non profits, civic organizations and the private sector.

My top priority is to increase civic engagement and service in all Montana communities. To accomplish this, I will create a formal alliance among non profits, k-16, civic organizations, local, County, State and Federal government, in partnership with all State of Montana agencies and the legislature. I will work with federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Military (including the National Guard) and others. An essential part of this alliance will be representation from the private sector, including the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana's largest employers, non-profit leaders, military family representation, small business leaders and leaders in our agricultural industries. The entire Montana University System and higher education leaders will be vital to our success as well. Montana's communities need and deserve this type of focus and prioritization of the value of service in Montana.

We must leverage increased investment in service from all sectors of the economy. Expanding service in Montana cannot be -- and should not be -- entirely supported by our taxpayers. There are significant corporations and employers in Montana who recognize the value of empowering their employees to be involved in their communities and in service. Some in public service seem to be blind to the many opportunities to leverage effective Corporate Social Responsibility programs to benefit their businesses, their communities and their employees. I will work with private and agriculture sector leaders to help cross-train Montana's employers and producers to expand the amount of time, resources and effort they are investing in improving our communities through service and civic engagement.

We must improve efficiency and remove barriers and improve the ability of schools, local government and social service programs to benefit from entities offering support and help in the form of service and civic engagement. Too often, large employers, small businesses and agricultural producers are eager and willing to help serve their schools and their community's most vulnerable citizens; yet, they are turned away or redirected to invest in other non-service oriented programs. I will work with leaders in the charitable non-profit sector, and leaders in local, County, State and Federal government to help embrace service oriented private sector resources and initiatives to do all we can to maximize the overall investment and value of the enthusiasm for service among the leaders of Montana's business and agriculture producers.

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