Fleming, Salomon vie for House District 12 seat
In the race for House District 12, both incumbent John Fleming (D) and his Republican opponent Dan Salomon agree that energy, small business development and keeping Montana’s state budget in the black are crucial issues in the next legislative term.
“We are very happy to be in the black and we are one of two states to be there,” the fiscally conservative Fleming said.
He explained how managing the potential $400 million budget gap could prove to be a difficult task in the next legislative session.
“The clearest message is the government is going to have a budget that will maintain its core services,” Fleming said, listing those services as medicate, incarcerate, and educate.
And education is historically the largest budget.
Comparing neighboring states, Wyoming has a total of 700 to 800 students per district, while Montana has about 300 children in every district. Fleming explained that consolidating district administration in scantly populated areas, such as rural eastern Montana, may be a method to save money.
Salomon suggested one way to reduce education spending, is to cut full-day kindergarten funding to half-day, giving school boards the option of reducing full day kindergarten to half days.
But he noted that this couldn’t be a solution in some areas.
He also explained that though there have been many state budget projections, none of them have been decided yet. The governor expects the budget gap to be no more than $400 million, but hopes it will be less.
Montana’s departments are spending $20 million more than the actual revenue coming in each month, and it’s critical that each department justify its budget, Salomon said.
In order to combat the unemployment issue, Salomon would like to see Montana develop a more hospitable business climate to encourage out of state businesses to relocate and smaller businesses to develop, thrive and stay open. He suggests workmen’s compensation reform and would like to see the elimination of business equipment tax.
“We do have a good business climate in Montana, contrary to popular belief,” Fleming said.
Like his opponent, Fleming would also like to make it easier for small businesses to start up and strive. He mentioned that workmen’s compensation needs to modified.
While both opponents agreed on stricter punishments for drinking and driving offenses, Fleming and Salomon disagreed on issues regarding energy.
Both Fleming and Salomon would like to see more green energy used in the state, but Salomon doesn’t see a total transition to green energy production as fiscally feasible now.
“This energy thing is going to be a real circus,” Salomon said.
He noted that solar and wind energy needs to be reinforced with more traditional forms of energy such as coal and oil that are processed in a more modern, cleaner way.
“I don’t want to say that it’s a bad idea, but until it becomes financially efficient,” Salomon said. “It’s not going to be a good thing.”
On the other hand, Fleming believes that energy companies need encouragement to produce cleaner, green energy, and he supports Montana’s transition to a cleaner energy policy. Fleming also admitted that clean development of coal cannot be ignored, while developing green energy.
“We have the biggest reserve of coal in the world and the infrastructure to develop it as cleanly as possible,” Fleming said.
House District 12 includes a portion of Ronan, Pablo and Polson and all of St. Ignatius. There are almost 5,000 active registered voters in the district.
Election day is on Nov. 2 at all county polls from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.