Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Lotton campaigns at Pachyderm meeting


March 19, 2018

Republican state Senate candidate Brad Lotton told the North Central Pachyderm Club Friday that his primary opponent, state Sen. Russ Tempel, R-Chester, does not have a conservative enough voting record from the last Legislative session.

Lotton said while he knows Tempel and thinks he is "a heck of a nice guy," Tempel's voting record is too liberal. Lotton said he thinks he can be a more conservative alternative.

"I got into this race because I think I can do better," Lotton said. "Most of you know me as a conservative, and I think I can follow through on that in Helena."

Tempel said when reached for comment Sunday that that is Lotton's view.

"If he considers me liberal in his opinion, than that is his opinion," Tempel said.

Lotton, owner of Lotton Construction of Havre and finance director of the Hill County Republican Central Committee, is mounting a primary challenge to Tempel in the June 5 Republican primary in Senate District 14.

Senate District 14 runs from the Canadian border north of Chester down to Great Falls and includes the communities of Havre, Chester, Kremlin, Gildford, Hingham, Rudyard, Joplin, Inverness, Box Elder and Big Sandy.

The winner of the primary will go on to face Bear Paw Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Tuss, a Democrat, in November.

Tempel was chosen by members of the county commissions in the Senate district to fill the seat in late 2016 after state Sen. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, resigned from the Senate to move to Helena and accept a job as chief legal counsel to Montana Auditor Matthew Rosendale.

Lotton and Darrold Hutchinson, a farmer from north of Hingham and now a Republican primary candidate for the Montana House of Representatives in House District 27, were also on the list of three names Cascade, Chouteau and Hill County Republican Central Committees gave to the commissioners.

Lotton said he was the choice of the central committees for the Senate seat, but the commissioners overruled them to appoint Tempel, who had just finished his third-term as Liberty County commissioner.

Tempel, a member of the Senate Taxation Committee, voted for multiple bills that included tax increases, Lotton said.

"Republicans like to say they are not for taxes, but there are quite a few of them that will vote for the hidden taxes," he said.

One bill, S.B. 115 that was signed into law, revises income tax laws related to business to include sales of internet software and web-based streaming services if all or a greater portion of a product was produced in Montana.

"There were 10 Republicans who voted for that, Russ was one of them," Lotton said.

S.B. 354, a bill to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $1.70 to $3.20 is another bill Tempel supported, Lotton said. The website says S.B. 354 would also raise the tax on other tobacco products from 50 to 74 percent of the wholesale prices and expand the definition of tobacco products to include electronic cigarettes and vaping products.

The bill did not pass the House Taxation Committee.

Lotton added that Tempel voted for H.B. 150, a bill that would require people who rent out their homes, vacation homes, apartments or rooms to pay the state lodging facility use and accommodations sales tax.

That bill did not pass.

Lotton also said Tempel voted for a bill to increase the state sales tax on vehicle rentals.

Lotton added that Tempel voted against a bill to increase property tax abatement from 50 to 75 percent.

He also said that it was mind-boggling that there were Republican legislators who voted to add an earned income tax credit. Lotton said most of those who would benefit from it don't pay taxes.

Though Lotton did not single out Tempel, Tempel did vote for the bill.

Bills to increase spending and extend the duration for school district bonds were also targeted by Lotton. He said legislators are far too eager to increase spending.

"And I think that is what we forget in state government, we don't try to reduce debt we just increase spending," he said.

Lotton added there is a difference between reasonable spending and spending.

He said that in the current economic climate he does not think new state programs should be created or expanded.

Lotton, who has several rental properties, said he found it discouraging that local legislators voted against what he called several landlord bills

He did not specify which bills they were or what they did.

"On a lot of these landlord bills we had one or two GOP vote against them. Again, Russ was one of them," he said.

Although he is for spending money on infrastructure, Lotton said he would not have been inclined to vote for a $99 million bonding bill that would have done that.

For the communities in Senate District 14, Lotton said the bill would have included $75,000 to replace unsafe seating at schools in Geraldine, $525,000 for a ventilation upgrade at Havre High and $67,472 in technology upgrades at Fort Benton High School.

Lotton said that out of the entire bill, communities within the district would have only received about $667,000.

"That really does not constitute something I would vote for," he said.

Lotton said there are several bills that affect people's personal freedoms. One such bill, he said would require drivers over age 55 to take defensive driving classes to get an insurance discount.

"And Russ was the only Senator to vote for that." Lotton said.

He added that from an insurance perspective there is probably merit to companies requiring that, but it should not be required.

Lotton also weighed in on several other bills.

As a business owner, Lotton said, he is against the Montana Paycheck Transparency Act, Senate Bill 217. The legislation, which died in committee, would allow employees to talk about wages without penalty or retribution.

The legislation would also have required employers make certain information available about wages,

Lotton said he is against it because if the information is disclosed, employers could be forced to either give all employees a raise or fire an employee who has a higher wage.

"So it causes dissension amongst the troops," he said.

Lotton said information on employee wages, though, should be made public if it is a government agency or if an organization receives taxpayer dollars.


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