The Gazette asked: To reduce the national debt over the long term, should Congress reduce spending, increase tax revenues or both?
Here's what the candidates for Montana's U.S. Senate seat answered.
Dirk Adams: Democrat
As Montana’s U.S. senator, I will not surrender the goals of society and well-being of the citizens to address the debt when effective solutions lie in restructuring bureaucracy and reforming the tax code.
When it comes to prudent fiscal management I will be guided by effectiveness. Large bureaucracies and institutions — corporate, governmental, even religious — tend to self-perpetuate and resist change. When it comes to reduced spending, I will focus on creating greater governmental effectiveness by streamlining bureaucracy while protecting services.
It’s delicate, because whether in the public or private sector, people fight for their jobs, even jobs clearly being phased out by technology or having undisputed deleterious impacts that outweigh economic benefits.
But creating a fair tax structure is even more critical. The percentage of income paid to taxes by the middle class exceeds that paid by the extremely wealthy and corporations. We must remedy this.
Dirk Adams of Wilsall is an attorney and rancher.
John Bohlinger: Democrat
The $17 trillion dollars national debt is troubling and must be dealt with. When I am elected to the United States Senate, I will support legislation to reduce the debt by a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. We can’t run the risk of crippling the economy and hurting Americans by only relying on one or the other solution: we need both!
John Bohlinger of Helena served eight years as lieutenant governor in the administration of Democrat Brian Schweitzer. Earlier, he represented Billings districts in the Legislature as a Republican.
Steve Daines: Republican
As a father of four, I’m deeply concerned about Washington’s wasteful spending, which puts our country on a dangerous track and threatens the prosperity of this nation for future generations. Montanans know that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem — Washington has a spending problem. With trillion dollar deficits coming from Washington every year, it’s no wonder that our national debt has spiraled out of control — leaving our economy weak and our nation indebted to other countries. Montanans deserve a real solution to address our $17 trillion debt and our spending crisis. Montanans deserve a balanced budget. That’s why the first bill I introduced was the Balanced Budget Accountability Act, which simply says if Congress doesn’t pass a balanced budget, members don’t get paid. No balanced budget, no pay check. Montanans need leaders who are willing to make tough decisions and put our children and grandchildren’s futures first, not politics.
Steve Daines of Bozeman is serving his first term as Montana’s sole U.S. representative.
Champ Edmunds: Republican
The federal government took in a record $1.1 trillion in revenue in the first five months of FY2014, and spent around $1.4 trillion, which still left a deficit of about $377.37 billion. It's hard to wrap your head around these kinds of numbers when the Montana annual per capita income sits at $25,000. With labor force participation rates at 1978 levels, and the number of people not working at a record 91.8 million, there is no possible way to reduce the debt with additional taxes, especially on those who are working and struggling to keep themselves and their families solvent. The spending must stop and the waste, fraud, and abuse must be reined in.
Champ Edmunds of Missoula is a state representative.
Roger Roots: Libertarian
Congress should immediately slash spending across every dimension, and I will cast every vote to do so in the U.S. Senate. Republicans and Democrats have irresponsibly run up future debts exceeding $100 trillion, even though national GDP is only about $16 trillion annually. Congress must scale back, eliminate, or privatize entitlements, and should pay off those who have become dependent by auctioning off certain federal assets such as foreign military bases, the Hope Diamond, unnecessary office space, monuments and valuable works of art.
Roger Roots of Livingston is a lawyer and college instructor in sociology and criminal justice with degrees from Montana State University Billings, Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
John Walsh: Democrat
We must reduce our national debt by cutting wasteful government spending and closing loopholes that only benefit millionaires and corporations – not by raising taxes. Take a look at our defense budget. I served with the Montana National Guard for 33 years and saw how federal mandates resulted in expenses we didn’t need. I’m working on legislation that eliminates outdated military requirements and examines the $2 trillion we spend on defense contracts to cut redundant and unnecessary expenses. There are other areas where we can cut spending and I’m eager to work with my colleagues to reduce our debt.
What we cannot do is balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable. I’ve pledged to protect Medicare and Social Security for seniors, to maintain funding for anti-hunger programs that feed children and veterans, and to make sure that millionaires and big corporations pay their fair share.
John Walsh was born and raised in Butte. After retiring from the Montana National Guard, he was elected lieutenant governor in 2012 and appointed to the U.S. Senate this year.
Editor's note: Political newcomer Susan Cundiff of Missoula filed for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, but did not respond to a Gazette invitation to answer questions.