A Republican legislator is trying to retain her victory that started a GOP domination in traditionally blue Blaine and Hill counties, while her opponent is pushing to reverse that change.
Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Chinook, won the election in House District 34 in eastern Havre and northern Blaine and Hill counties, taking a seat that had been held by Hill County Democratic Chair John Musgrove and legendary Montana Democrat Ray Peck.
She won her bid for re-election in 2010, leading a sweep where every Democrat lost in contested elections in the two counties.
Warburton, who served as a Republican majority whip in the 2011 Legislature, is now seeking her third term, saying she wants to continue the work she and other Republican legislators have started.
Retired registered nurse practitioner and Family Planning Director Karen Sloan said she wants to end that work that she said appears to be mostly from an out-of-state agenda.
Warburton, who requested her interview be conducted via email due to a hectic schedule, said her values and experience make her the right choice in HD 34.
“I share common values and concerns on major issues with the majority of my constituency, and I have the experience to be an effective legislator, ” she emailed to the Havre Daily News. “My goals are to continue standing for family values, lower taxes, job creation, property rights, and responsible spending, for a better future for Montana. ”
Sloan said in an interview that she has always been interested in running for the Legislature and has experience testifying there on health issues. After watching the 2011 session, she said, she decided it was time.
“I was very displeased with the Legislature last time, and I thought I might have something to contribute …, ” she said.
“I think the biggest thing, probably, was that there is an agenda that is not ours that is being pushed on legislation and legislators all over the United States, and I think Montanans ought to be running Montana, ” Sloan added.
Warburton has regularly said the work done by the 2011 Legislature was valuable, although she also has cited Gov. Brian Schweitzer derailing much of its work with his 74 vetoes and said that the perception of partisan bickering and controversial bills is a misrepresentation by the media of what actually happened at the session.
“I’d like the voters to take a look at some of the things that happened at the Legislature last year, and that’s easily done on the Internet, and then evaluate if they want more of the same, ” she said.
Concern about out-of-state interests
Sloan cited several bills, such as one that allowed a Canadian company to use eminent domain in Montana for building the Montana-Alberta Tie Line power transmission line and the Legislature attempting to give $4 million in Family Planning money back to the federal government, as evidence that legislators in the last session were wasting time and money.
Much of the legislation proposed — which she said costs the state about $5,000 for each bill — was being pushed by out-of-state interests, Sloan said, and she added that more seems to be on the way.
“There are already several bills drafted and in the legislative hopper for next time that are somebody else’s agenda, ” she said. “I just think it’s really important that we, the people of Montana, are running the show and not somebody back east who is throwing a lot of their money into the Legislature and into candidates and telling us where we want to go. ”
Democratic candidate for House District 34
Born in Chester, 1941
Education: Graduated from Oilmont High School, 1959; Graduated from Montana State College, now Montana State University, with an associate in nursing, 1961, certificate University of Wisconsin, 1991, nurse practitioner
Work experience: Nursing in Chester, then Honolulu, Hawaii; then in Havre from 1968-80; Family Planning director in Havre, 1980-2009
Political experience: Served on several state committees including maternal health, nursing association
Family: Husband Duaine “Dewey” Sloan, deceased; son, Michael; daughter, K’Lynn (Zach) Harris and new grandson, William
Civic or service organizations: Havre Jaycees, Montana Nurses Association, active in Havre High School music and speech activities, active in First Lutheran Church including serving as the president of its council
The state Democratic Party is making hay about the Legislature’s cuts to the governor’s budget requests.
Republicans in 2011 often cited the Legislature’s fiscal division’s forecasts, which were significantly lower than the governor’s forecasts, as the reason for cutting the budget requests.
After the fiscal analysts revised their forecasts higher, Democrats proposed a slough of amendments increasing the budget, most of which were defeated. Some spending was later increased through last-minute negotiations between Schweitzer and the Republican leadership in the Legislature.
The latest estimates now show much higher revenue than Schweitzer had used in his budget, with a more-than $450 million ending fund balance expected.
Warburton said she wants to return that money to the citizens of Montana.
“It is critical to maintain a stable, steady budget for Montana, not a budget that relies on millions or billions in unexpected revenues such as from oil and gas booms, federal stimulus, or one-time coal deals, but something that Montanans can afford even in hard times, ” she said. “The ending fund balances that remain above what was forecast should be returned to the taxpayers. ”
Sloan said she wants to use some of that money to improve infrastructure like roads and the St. Mary Diversion that supplies much of the water in the Milk River, and to make sure that the education system in the state is adequately funded.
“That money already has been taxed, ” she said. “Nobody was crippled because of it, I think we better take care of our state.
“The only reason the projections came in like that was because the opposing party wanted to scare us and tell us we couldn’t do anything … that’s just my opinion, ” she added.
Warburton stands by her votes against amendments increasing the budget.
“I stand by my vote for a responsible budget, ” she said. “Montana needs a budget that is affordable to taxpayers, sustainable and relatively steady from year to year, not an inflated budget that depends on one-time windfalls like unexpected billion-dollar surpluses due to oil booms, nearly billion-dollar federal stimulus injections, or multimillion dollar Arch Coal deals.
“If the amendments the Democrats proposed to the budget last session had been accepted, our state would be in the red right now, spending more than the current surplus, ” she added.
But Sloan said the Legislature made the wrong move when asked if the legislators should have approved budget amendments on children’s health insurance, prescription medication for seniors, Meals on Wheels, Low Income Energy Assistance and the Montana University System, which included some spending that ended in the final budget that was passed.
“Of course they should have, ” Sloan said. “Every one of those programs were programs for lower-income people and things that will help people, and that Legislature was not into that — and that’s another reason that I am running. ”
Enacting health care reform
The two candidates also had opposite views on enacting the health care reform act, including the question of whether the state should opt in to the Medicaid expansion set in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“The Legislature should continue to fight Obamacare in every way possible, ” Warburton said.
But Sloan supports the Medicaid expansion.
“The thing that makes me the saddest is that (state Auditor) Monica Lindeen had started to do a really good health program that we could design our own which would fit into the Obamacare package, ” she added. “And we would have a system that we designed that would work well with that, and that was defeated by the Legislature.
“And so now it’s going to be more of a one-size-fits-all but that’s our own fault, because our Legislature did not approve going ahead and working on it, because, I guess, they thought we weren’t going to have Obamacare, ” Sloan said.
She said the Legislature should take action on implementing the plan.
“I think that Obamacare was designed to help and protect people, and the reason that there’s so much problems is that there are private interest groups that don’t want to slice away their profits …, ” Sloan said. “My big concern is, people need health care, and I think we have to work on how they are going to get it. Obamacare is not perfect, but it certainly is the first start we have had in leveling out the health care field in many, many years. ”
Sharp difference on same-sex civil unions
The contrast also was 180 degrees on the question of extending rights and benefits to same-sex unions.
“No, ” was all Warburton said in reply to whether those rights should exist.
“I think they should have absolutely the same rights as a married couple, ” Sloan said in her interview, adding that she knows some of the people who are plaintiffs in the case the state Supreme Court heard in April, which is still awaiting a decision.
“Those people have been together a long time, lived together and invested in properties, “and it’s absolutely ludicrous that they cannot have the same rights, ” Sloan said.
“And I believe in calling it civil unions, ” she added. “I think calling it marriage is probably a little bit over the hill, and we will probably never get that done, but I think civil unions has to come. ”
Citizens United and corporate spending
Warburton said the U. S. Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations the ability to spend in elections was the right decision.
“The Legislature should stand by the Supreme Court’s decision, ” she said. “Corporations are simply groups of people with a common interest, just as political action committees … are groups of people with a common interest. In fairness, as long as PACs are allowed to spend money in elections, then corporations should logically also be allowed to do so. ”
Sloan said the decision — and its impact — gives her difficulty and linked it again to outside interests acting in Montana.
“It’s phenomenal to me, and very alarming, when I think of the money that we are spending to lie about each other and how that could pay off the debt, feed hungry children, pay for health care for people who don’t have it, ” she said. “It’s very interesting to me that some things are out-and-out lies, and anybody who pays attention knows that. It’s kind of like Jon Tester having his whole hand, and those are things that are really happening.
“It’s just an example of how we need to take control of our own political process and elect who we want and not who the … 1 percent … (want), ” she added.
The Havre Daily News asked the candidates for House District 34, Republican Rep. Wendy Warburton of Havre and Democrat Karen Sloan of Havre, to give short answers to a series of questions. Following are their answers.
What should the state do to increase business expansion and job creation?
Warburton: “Limit regulations, lower taxes, reduce the insurance mandates and other mandates that make our state less competitive for business compared to neighboring states. Continue the work we began in the 2011 Legislature to lower workers’ compensation insurance rates.
Sloan: “Jobs is a big problem, however, we do not need to create more jobs that are no-benefits and low-paying. If we’re going to have service organizations and service jobs be what is making the country tick then we’ve got to figure out a way to make it so the people who are working can live. We need natural resource development … but we need to do it in a responsible way … Why don’t we make (wind turbines), not import them from Spain,” make a Montana oil refinery.
What, if anything, should the state government do to encourage and increase the production of alternative fuel and energy like biodiesel?
Warburton: “Yes. Continue the support for (Montana State University)-Northern’s biodiesel program that I and other area representatives fought for last session.
Sloan: “Certainly. We have a good example at (Montana State University-)Northern of how it can work. I think the big deal now is cost, however, there’s also lot of work that needs to be done and could be done to make cars work more efficiently and the day will come when we are out of our natural fuels, so we need to be working, on and funding, programs for research like Northern and their biodiesel program.”
Should the state implement a sales tax?
Warburton: “I would not support the implementation of a sales tax unless and until property tax was first eliminated.”
Sloan: Absolutely not. I have lots of company that comes from Washington and lots of other places, and Herbeger’s just does a land-office business when they’re here because they can buy stuff without sales tax, and when I go to North Dakota or Washington, I tell them that I’m from Montana and I don’t have to pay their sales tax. So, I think sales tax just makes the people with the less money pay more and there are better ways to finance our state and government.”
Should the state increase the share it funds of the Montana University System?
Warburton: “Spending should only be increased if compelling needs can be shown by particular units of the system for particular reasons, not across-the-board.”
Sloan: “The only way that America is going to go forward is to have educated people. The jobs that we’re going to have in the next 50 years are not going to be the jobs our people are trained for now so we’re going to have to have more training and only way to get that is to have education that people can afford, and so it’s a win win situation to have more educated people and if we have a way to educate them.”
Should the state increase the share it funds of K-12 public education?
Warburton: “The state should increase the flexibility before increasing the dollar amount. Giving schools more flexibility in how to spend the money already allotted for K-12 education would allow them to accomplish greater goals in a more efficient manner. However, I would support additional dollars for education with additional natural resource production on state lands.
Sloan: “I think we have to evaluate what can really be done by education we have lots of kids in our school system as well as the state of montana who have no parental involvement in their quest for education they don’t get help at home they might not even know where they’re going to sleep tonight and it’s very very difficult to educate kids who are hungry and tired, and so education is not just what happens in the classroom, and we may have to do more things like Head Start and things to get our kids so that they’re on a level playing field and can all learn at the same rate and that costs money.”
What, if anything, should the state change to increase development of coal, oil and natural extraction?
Warburton: “Yes, by developing a regulatory system that is more fair to business, a tax system that is stable and predictable, and a more business friendly attitude from state government agencies. Hopefully, the voters will elect a Land Board that will be more amenable to natural resource production than the current group.”
Sloan: “I think that we have. We looked at the Bakken field. We, perhaps, have some of the Bakken field. We have always had some oil and gas in this particular part of the state. We need to develop it, but we need to develop it responsibly. We don’t need to contaminate our water and our air. There are ways to do it. We talk about energy independence, then let’s get with it.”