By Tim Leeds
State Sen. Mike Taylor said he is addressing some serious issues for the state and the country in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Taylor, in Havre to portray Teddy Roosevelt in the one-man show "Bully" for the Legends for Lights fund-raiser, also addressed some issues of local interest during an interview Wednesday, including the widening of U.S. Highway 2.
He said some of his major issues are national security, reforming the Freedom to Farm Act and improving agricultural opportunities, and changing attitudes and laws to stimulate Montana's economy.
"We have some serious issues to be resolved," he said.
The Proctor resident is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Max Baucus. Baucus, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, is up for re-election next year.
Taylor is a Lewistown native and was elected to the Montana Senate in 1997. He has also worked as a private business owner in the hair care industry. He and his wife, Janna, own and operate a ranch in Winnett, raising cattle, wheat, barley and hay.
Taylor said he has a wait-and-see attitude about the widening of U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes. He said he wants to see what studies say about the construction of the highway and what the people along the highway want before he makes a decision.
For example, if studies require that the highway bypass most of the towns on the Hi-Line, Taylor said, he would want to know how the people feel about that before he took a position.
Montanans have to be realistic about whether Congress will appropriate money for the project, he added. Under Senate Bill 3, the state law instructing the state to pursue the widening, the project will be built only if Congress specifically authorizes it.
"The fact of it is, it probably isn't going to happen right away," Taylor said.
Taylor, who said he loves the Upper Missouri River Breaks and has floated the river many times, has strong feelings about the designation of the Breaks as a national monument. The people who live along the Breaks, and were impacted by President Clinton's designation of the area as a national monument in January, should have 70 percent of the vote in whether their land will remain within the monument's boundaries, he said.
Taylor said people outside of Montana had too much input in whether the land should be designated a monument. If Montanans aren't telling New Yorkers how to run their city, they shouldn't be telling Montanans how to run the Breaks, he said.
A major issue, especially in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is strengthening the military and national security, Taylor said. He added that the United States needs to prepare its security and military for the realities of the 21st Century, not for specific conflicts. Attacks like those of Sept. 11 should be expected, he said.
"We knew that this could happen," he said. "I don't think that anybody who analyzes world events would have doubted we could have had the World Trade Center event, because of the evil, the people that want to bring the United States down."
Some of the money Taylor wants to see added to military spending would go to improving the technology and equipment used, he said, but 60 percent should go to personnel. The number of experienced, highly trained people has to be maintained, he said.
"We've got to pay this man or woman in the military to keep them," he said, "just like a business does."
Taylor said immigration is an important issue both for security and for economic reasons. People wanting to immigrate should be thoroughly checked, both for security and for what they can contribute to the country, he said.
Taylor said jobs and wages in Montana are a major issue that he has also addressed as a state legislator. He said he carried bills that have helped the economy, such as the bills reducing taxes on business and agricultural equipment. He said local governments' claim that the legislation merely shifted taxes from the state level to the local level is a typical argument of the opposition. Strengthening businesses, he said, is a key to economic success.
On agriculture issues, Taylor government subsidies should go only to businesses that make at least 50 percent of their income from the land and crops the subsidies are paid for. That would keep large corporations from receiving the subsidies, he said.
Taylor said another key to agricultural success in Montana is moving away from commodities. Montanans can't compete with foreign countries that have the same technology to produce crops but don't have the same rules, he said. Not having a minimum wage and being able to use chemicals like DDT gives some foreign producers an unfair advantage, he added.
Montana ag producers should concentrate on value-added products, he said. A farmer who markets milled wheat to a baker in New York, allowing that baker to market bread baked with genuine Montana wheat, gives an advantage to both the farmer and the baker, Taylor said.