Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Democratic state Rep. John Musgrove has filed for election in a new House district in Havre. Harlem Republican Andrew Brekke has filed in the same district, which now includes much of northern Blaine County.
The new House District 34, created by legislative redistricting following the 2000 census, is similar to Musgrove's former district but also includes includes Harlem, Turner and Hogeland as well as Chinook.
The deadline for filing as a candidate for the June primary is 5 p.m. on March 25.
Musgrove is running for his third term as a representative. He served two terms as representative in District 91.
Brekke ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Jonathan Windy Boy in District 92 in 2002. He served as a legislative intern for the state Office of Commissioner of Higher Education during the 2001 Legislature.
Musgrove said balancing the budget will once again be a primary task for the Legislature. The state faces a deficit of at least $100 million, possibly more, depending on the results of lawsuits and how the economy is doing, he said.
The methods the 2003 Legislature used to balance the budget guaranteed a deficit, Musgrove said.
"We knew there would be a $100 million deficit because we used one-time money," he said.
Even if the Montana economy improves, it won't make up for the projected shortfall in revenue, Musgrove said. He said the Legislature will have to use a combination of cuts and increases in revenue to cover the deficit.
"I'm hoping for more cooperation and a bipartisan effort to do it," he said. "You can get a lot done if you don't care who gets the credit."
Musgrove said he is "fed up with" the partisan nature of activity he saw in the last two sessions.
"Both parties want what's best for Montana. We just have different ways to go about doing that," he said. "We just have to find similarities instead of dwelling on our differences."
Musgrove also is focusing on providing affordable and accessible health care in Montana. He suggests doing that by offering tax credits to businesses that make health benefits available to employees, and by expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program to take advantage of federal money that could be added to the program.
He said the state needs to work to improve the economy, "knocking down unfair trade barriers" and promoting value-added products.
The state also should increase training and education of workers, Musgrove said.
One way Musgrove wants to help with revenue is to change the tax structure.
"One goal is to make sure that our tax structure is fair. By that I mean we have to start right at the base, the way tax is imposed on property owners in particular," he said.
Another problem with the tax system is that relief has been given to large corporations, decreasing state revenue and forcing local governments to increase property taxes, he said.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch, yet we're giving a free lunch and forcing others to make it up," he said.
Musgrove, 62, has served on the House Business and Labor Committee, the House Appropriations Committee and the Legislative Audit Committee.
He is a native of White Sulphur Springs. He graduated from White Sulphur Springs High School and received bachelor's degrees in English and industrial arts from Western Montana College in Dillon.
Musgrove served in the U.S. Navy, and taught at Havre High School for 25 years.
He ran unopposed in 2000 for the seat in House District 91, vacated when longtime Rep. Ray Peck could not run due to term limits.
Musgrove lives in Havre with his wife, Sue. They have one daughter, Kelley.
Brekke said the biggest issues facing the state are its economy, energy costs and ensuring a quality education.
He said the way to help the economy is by promoting business.
"I think the state can do that by making a business-friendly environment," Brekke said. "If businesses have money they create jobs, and that's Economic Growth 101."
He said Montana needs to change its tax structure.
"This is a very unfriendly state for business, in terms of taxation and in terms of how stagnant our economy is," he said.
Brekke said he supports reform of the income tax structure. The state also should work to reduce capital gains taxes, he said. The business equipment tax probably should be reduced some more, he added.
High taxes are driving company owners and managers to other states where they can keep more of their income, he said.
The state needs to focus on attracting more energy production, such as coal-fired generators and renewable energy sources like wind and biomass facilities, he said. Now, the application process and regulations act as roadblocks to new energy- producing projects, Brekke said.
That is the only way to make energy deregulation adopted in the 1990s work, he said.
"Deregulation is about competition, and competition won't work if businesses won't come into the state," Brekke said.
The state also needs to work to increase harvesting natural resources, he said. Environmental interests have stopped much of that harvesting, which used to produce many of the best-paying jobs in the state, Brekke said.
He said the system of funding education needs to be changed, and priorities in education need to be re-examined.
One possible solution is using a three-year rolling average of student enrollment to determine funding. Brekke said that would help reduce the impact of large losses in enrollment from year to year.
Some schools seem top-heavy in administration, which cuts into money available for things like books, desks, and building maintenance, Brekke said.
Brekke, 22, is a graduate of Chinook High School and received a bachelor's degree in political science from Montana State University in Bozeman in 2003. He works for Erickson Baldwin Insurance Associates in Havre, and was elected president of the North Central Montana Pachyderm Club and took office in January.