Lotton, Tuss, Tempel make a run for MT State Senate

Editor's Note: The Mountaineer asked the candidates for State Senate a series of 5 questions, these are the questions and their answers.

1. What is your main value? Why are you running?

Lotton: I was raised on a farm just west of here mid-way between Box Elder and Gildford. I have supported myself and my employees as a self-employed Building Contractor in Havre and the surrounding area for the past 39 years.

During this time I have witnessed firsthand the difficulties agriculture and businesses in Montana have faced on a daily basis. Many of these problems are not only not addressed by our legislature but often times are even made more difficult by the regulations and mandates that are passed down from Helena.

It is hard to say you want to grow the job market on one hand and then pass regulations and laws that hinder the very goal you claim to be trying to achieve. I am running because I am semi-retiring this year and I have the time, the background, the knowledge and the experience to actually get something done and represent the entire 7,100 square mile district. Throwing more money and more regulations at an issue really doesn't solve the problems and we can do better. I will be looking to a fresh approach and will represent my constituents without worrying about what political party will be getting the credit for making positive improvements to how the State of Montana conducts business.

Tuss: I have more than two decades of economic and community development experience here in northern Montana as Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, including working in Big Sandy and throughout Chouteau County. I now want to take that experience and put it to work in State Senate.

I firmly believe we need representation from rural Montana who understands what makes our economy tick, the resources available to make a positive difference, and a reputation of getting things accomplished.

As a member of the Board of Regents, I have also worked to assure the continued relevance of MSU-Northern to our regional economy as a place that provides access and affordability to area students. We need advocates in the Legislature who will fight for MSUN and the role it plays in educating today's students to be tomorrow's workforce.

Finally, it goes without saying that the Montana Legislature needs more bipartisanship and less emphasis on who gets credit. My pledge is to work for practical solutions to the difficult issues that face our state, especially in rural Montana. Reaching across the partisan divide to find solutions is the only way we will move our state forward. It has been necessary to work in this bipartisan manner during my time at Bear Paw Development and I look forward to continuing that approach in the State Senate.

Tempel: Family comes first, as I have been married just days short of 48 years. I have 4 kids and 11 grandkids. Why are you running? When my predecessor resigned, I was asked to put my name in and was appointed. At the time, I committed to run for a full term, if appointed, and am happy to keep that commitment. I really enjoy this work.

2. How will you support education in our schools? How can we have the top education programs?

Lotton: First and foremost we need to work together to get the focus back on the classroom and the teachers instead of administration costs and OPI mandated requirements. Smaller rural schools are unfairly tasked with the same staffing requirements as larger urban areas and the OPI doesn't always have much flexibility to allow changes geared towards smaller schools.

We really need to give back some control of our schools to the locally elected school boards. The natural resources industries have really suffered the past decade or so which in turn caused a loss of revenue to our educational system.

I would support the coal, gas and oil, and timber industries to improve the economy so we had a reliable source of funding for our schools.

Tuss: Rural Montana has a proud history of supporting its local schools, including here in our area. However, every dollar the State of Montana doesn't invest in our K-12 system is a dollar that must be made up at the local level either through cuts to programs or increased property taxes. This puts an undue burden on both the local school district as well as local taxpayers.

It is important that the Legislature prioritize education and fund it appropriately so we can continue to provide an excellent foundation for our kids and grandkids as they enter the workforce or prepare for college

Tempel: I am on the Senate Education Committee and my record demonstrates that I have voted to support education, especially rural education and retention of teachers. How can we have the top educational programs? We are working on options as dual credits, school-to-work, gifted and talented, special education classes, and have borrowed ideas from successful school systems and the public to come up with ideas that work.

3. How do you feel about human services being cut? And what will you do to address the complicated issues of human services?

Lotton: It was unfortunate that the Governor chose to balance the budget on the backs of the needy this last session.

The cuts didn't have to be made and unfortunately it is apparent that these cuts were in part made to force the legislature into voting for some unpopular tax increases to raise the budget.

Again partisan politics are being played with people's lives and none of the legislature's suggestions to trim money from the bureaucracy in the over $4 Billion dollar human services budget was acted upon by the governor.

The overall State budget was increased around 6% last session - nearly double the actual cost of living increase yet more money was again desired and social services cuts were the club that was used in an attempt to raise taxes. We can do better and will stand

I with those voices that want to make some changes while remembering that everything comes from you the taxpayers.

Tuss: At its foundation, a civil society must care for its most vulnerable, including those with disabilities. Having watched ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) slowly rob my wife of her ability to move, talk, swallow or ultimately even breathe, I can't imagine going through something like that without quality health insurance, which we were fortunate to have. However, every day similar diagnoses happen to our neighbors here in northern Montana. For those that need assistance to simply live with dignity, the State of Montana should work with care providers, families and others to assure these individuals are not neglected or forgotten. This must occur, of course, within the context of the realities of budget constraints at the state level. However, prioritizing funding for those with disabilities should be a bipartisan priority of the Legislature.

Temple: The cuts for human services were the Governor's cuts, and they were the highest percentage of any cuts of the past three Governors. And what will you do to address the complicated issues of human services? This is a program that has been exploited. It must be closer scrutinized, with some options, such as drug testing, looked at and evaluated.

4. How can the state and county governing bodies work better together?

Lotton: The State legislature has again and again shifted their financial responsibilities onto the backs of the counties which have caused property taxes to go through the roof. The first step is to get our focus on working towards the same goals and then figure out an equitable partnership to accomplish our objectives. We can eliminate duplication of services, decrease regulations that tie the hands of our county officials and give the local people some added discretion on how they meet their individual needs and spend their budgets.

Tuss: Working together effectively starts with realizing you need partners to solve problems. Solutions are almost always better when more than one person is involved. Through my work in economic development at Bear Paw Development, we have an array of partners involved in every project we tackle. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table and has something positive to contribute. It shouldn't be any different for those issues in which local and state government are involved.

Elected officials at the local and state level share the same constituents, and so working together to find creative solutions to difficult problems is in the best interest of everyone.

Key questions that should be asked when issues involve both county and state government are the following: Can we agree on what the issue or problem is? Who should be involved in trying to find a solution? Is there a cost-effective way to figure this out that is a win-win for everyone?

Finally, real solutions to difficult issues should not be partisan. Far too many good ideas are rejected due to partisan politics. If we work from the premise that we don't care who gets credit for a solution to a problem, there is probably nothing that can't be solved.

Temple: I have worked on both sides during state and county collaborations. While working at the county, we coordinated with the state during declared disasters, and to receive funding for various projects including road improvements and grants. During my work as a Senator with the state, I have voted for money saving opportunities for the counties. My work with both state and county governments on behalf of each has been very successful

5. How best to create a healthy financial state that serves its citizens

Lotton: Get the government out of the way as much as possible. Tax reform, less burdensome regulations, more local freedom and control. We have spent over 50 years using government funded economic development groups to try and stimulate the economy with marginal success. You can't take money from taxpayers and then give them back a portion in the form of grants and state programs and ever get ahead of the bureaucracy and overhead costs of the whole operation. Leave the local taxes with the local people as much as possible.

I will represent the entire vast 7,100 square mile district and will be open and accessible to my constituents. You can contact me anytime at 406-265-7362, by e-mail at or via my campaign Brad Lotton for Senate District 14 Face Book page

Tuss: One of the best ways to create a healthy financial condition for the State of Montana is to have the legislative and executive branches of government agree on what the revenue projections will be for the coming biennium, using solid information and putting partisan politics aside. Unfortunately, that didn't happen during the last Legislature.

Montana needs a budgeting process that is transparent, realistic and bipartisan.

Temple: I believe if taxes are fair and equal, everyone benefits.