May 31, 2012 10:39 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Democrat Rob Stutz is Billings native with an undergraduate degree from Purdue and a law degree from the University of Montana. He has worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the Montana Department of Justice, the Chief Legal Counsel for the Montana Legislature and now practices law at his private firm in Helena, Montana.
How do you propose to balance the federal budget? What areas would you look at first when cutting spending? What programs are most important to preserve?
The recovery of our economy will increase tax revenues and help balance the budget without raising tax rates. However, the tax holidays for high-income earners should be allowed to expire, as currently scheduled, to help further balance the budget. Ending unfunded wars and negotiating prices for Medicare prescription drugs will save trillions of dollars over the long run. Earned benefits that people have paid into throughout their lives and that they depend on must be protected.
Do you support the Affordable Care Act? If yes, why? If not what alternative health care reforms do you support?
Last fall I called for a single-payer health care system. I stand by that position and am glad to see other candidates agreeing with me. There are differing approaches to implementing a single-payer system that I would consider, but private insurance and medical care must also remain available. A single-payer system would address some of the most contentious health care issues:
1) increase access to health care for all Americans,
2) reduce the inefficiencies and waste caused by the current piecemeal system of coverage,
3) eliminate the mandate to buy private health insurance, and
4) protect access to women's health services by ensuring these services are treated as health care, not political, issues.
Do you support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline? Why or why not?
I support a Keystone pipeline that connects to Montana's Bakken formation, but not the Alberta tar sands, if safeguards are incorporated in the routing, construction, and community emergency response services. This approach protects the jobs and economic growth in Montana and avoids the environmental problems resulting from extraction in Alberta.
Ideally we would refine more Montana oil at existing Montana refineries, adding additional value, jobs, and economic growth in Montana. A near-term investment in the Bakken pipeline can be part of a larger energy policy that invests in renewable energy sources to provide the long-term economic growth, the long-term environmental sustainability, and the long-term energy security that Montana needs.
What ideas do you have to promote job growth and reduce the unemployment rate?
I support direct investments in infrastructure, education, and research and development that create jobs and benefit workers. I do not support corporate bailouts that primarily benefit executives. If the cash being hoarded overseas by American companies were spent hiring workers and buying goods and services domestically, the economic benefit would dwarf the federal bailouts without increased government spending.
Do you support the Citizens United decision? Why or why not? Do you believe corporations have a right to free speech?
I do not take special interest money - whether from corporate groups, labor organizations, or any other non-persons - and I do not sign special interest pledges. If they do not breathe, I do not accept their money. Citizens United threw the curtain open on politics-as-usual in Washington and the corrupting influence of money on our representative democracy. I cannot control whether the United States Supreme Court will reassess its decision or whether the United States Constitution will be amended. My stand against Citizens United as a candidate, however, is within my control. Corporations are not people and should not have the right to political speech.
People - not special interest groups, not big corporations - still have the vote. We decide who will represent us, and we get exactly the representation that we elect. Our political system can work if Montanans support a candidate who does not make pledges to special interest groups and does not take special interest money.
What role would you like to see the United States take in Afghanistan in the upcoming years?
Last fall I called for the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan. I stand by that position and am glad to see others agreeing with me. We asked our troops to do a difficult job and they did it well, but at a tremendous sacrifice. We owe them our thanks and our support. Bring them home, take care of them while in active duty and as veterans, and make sure their families and communities have the support they need during deployment. Diplomatic, economic development, and human rights initiatives are more appropriate in Afghanistan than active combat.
Where do you stand on social issues including abortion and homosexual marriage?
The Montana Constitution includes the right of privacy, which protects a woman's right to medical privacy in her health care decisions. I support this constitutional right.
The Montana Constitution includes equality of opportunity but also defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Montanans do not want Congress to interfere with this state issue, and as a result DOMA should be repealed. I personally support equality of opportunity for all, including marriage equality.
Where do you stand on energy development including wind, oil, gas and coal?
Investment in energy conservation and sustainable energy will improve our economy by encouraging new industries, technologies, and infrastructure and by reducing wasteful use of our energy resources. Our energy security and our environmental conditions will also improve with these investments. However, we are still dependent on carbon-based energy sources. Short-term development of carbon-based energy sources is necessary, but long-term investment in sustainable energy is critical. Montana can, and should, be a leader in diversifying our energy economy.
Are you proposing any changes to the federal tax structure? If so, explain.
Broad tax reform is necessary but unlikely to occur if special interest groups can buy political influence and get the tax system that works best for them. The best way to achieve tax fairness is to ensure Congress is responsive to the needs of the people, not special interests and not just those with the most partisan voices or the largest bank accounts. Mitt Romney should not pay a lower tax rate than middle class Americans. Abraham Lincoln said it best - government should be "of the people, by the people, for the people."
Do you support Senator Max Baucus' Heritage Act? Why or why not?
Putting traditional Montana values like conservation, recreation, ranching, and farming ahead of industrial development is the right approach. Montanans learned from our history of corporations privatizing profit and socializing expenses. We built safeguards into our Montana Constitution to protect the last best place from exploitation. Legislation like the Heritage Act serves to protect Montanans, our state, and our values.
How can you make sure the voices of 1 million Montanans are heard on Capitol Hill?
Representative government works best when elected officials:
1) Listen to Montanans, including when they speak directly through the Montana Constitution, voter initiatives, and similar expressions of the will of the people,
2) Respect Montanans by demonstrating a commitment to Montanans and Montana values, not special interest groups, and
3) Educate Congress about the issues important to Montana, the expressed will of Montanans, and the solutions that would work best for Montana.
I walk the walk. I show Montanans that they come first. Montanans across the political spectrum endorse my campaign, even when they disagree on specific policy matters, because they are excited that I understand what it takes to get Congress back on track and working for the best interest of the people.