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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Candidates For Montana's Lone U.S. House Seat Share Economic Priorities

Kathleen Williams (left), Matt Rosendale (right)
Kathleen Williams (left), Matt Rosendale (right)

The Republican candidate for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat recently released a plan that he says will revitalize an economy impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Current state Auditor Matt Rosendale says his proposals can create the jobs necessary to get people back to work as soon as possible.

“I’d say the bulk of this is about reducing unnecessary burdensome regulation and making sure that we have a reasonable tax and predictable tax policy in place,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale says he would prioritize congressional legislation to ease environmental regulations and the rules surrounding telemedicine. The federal government has temporarily made telehealth more accessible during the pandemic, and Rosendale says that allows vulnerable populations to safely seek health care without leaving their homes.

“And it worked out perfectly. And there’s no reason that I can see we shouldn’t keep those new standards in place,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale says Congress has a responsibility to comb all business related regulations suspended during the pandemic to determine whether they’re necessary or place undue burdens on businesses.

He also says the federal budget should be reviewed line by line to curb government spending. The auditor doesn’t have suggestions for which unpopular decisions, in his words, must be made.

Rosendale supports making permanent certain tax cuts passed in 2017, many of which expire in 2025. He says corporate tax cuts ultimately produce greater government revenue because they allow businesses to expand. However, Congressional Research Service and Brookings Institute studies found little evidence the 2017 cuts boosted the economy or paid for themselves.

As Congress negotiates another round of coronavirus relief, Rosendale favors letting $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefits stay expired without any replacement. He says Americans should rely on existing unemployment programs.

“You cannot pay someone more to stay home than they were earning at their job. That just isn’t a good situation,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale’s plan also promotes coronavirus lawsuit liability protections for businesses, developing natural resources and improving rural broadband access.

While Rosendale favors a pro business tax code and easing environmental regulations to revitalize an economy sputtering from the novel coronavirus pandemic, his Democratic opponent says she favors funding research to benefit Montana agriculture producers and closing corporate tax loopholes.

If elected to Congress, former state Rep. Kathleen Williams says she would introduce policy rooted in several of Montana’s largest industries, including tourism and agriculture, to bolster domestic manufacturing and local markets.

For example, can a crop grown in the Treasure State, safflower, be used to make insulin? Or can farmers tap into an existing market to produce a milk alternative made from peas?

“It’s an entrepreneurial mindset. How do we fix this? And how do we fix this in a way that benefits Montana,” Williams said.

Williams says she first looks toward the private sector for solutions, and is willing to seek answers to complex problems that don’t necessarily involve legislation.

Williams says tariffs and volatile markets have saddled the ag industry with low commodity prices. She says Congress needs to reclaim authority from the executive branch to regulate international trade.

Williams says she would also seek to close corporate tax loopholes, including one allowing businesses to avoid paying federal income taxes on foreign profits.

“So I’m all about trying to make sure we have an equitable tax system where some aren’t skating by while the rest of us are paying our fair share,” Williams said.

Williams says she would spur business development by cutting what she calls unnecessary red tape. As an example, she mentioned a bill from her time as a state lawmaker that created regulatory uniformity for food related businesses across county lines.

As Congress debates further coronavirus relief, Williams advocates for extending enhanced unemployment benefits that recently expired. She says the federal government should at least continue providing $600 per week until a new policy can be put in place.

“You know these people didn’t choose to be unemployed. And so we need to make sure that people can return to the honor and consistency of work,” Williams said.

Williams says there needs to be greater leadership in combatting the pandemic before the economy can recover. She says a national coordinated testing strategy would allow consumers to feel safer going out in public and spending money at local businesses.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kevin is a UM Journalism graduate student and reporter for MTPR.
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