HD-9: Democrat wants tax on alcohol; higher minimum wage

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Robert Petersen

Age: 65

Party: Democrat

Family: One child, three grandchildren

Education: Studied at University of Montana

Occupation: Retired

Background: Born in Colorado, earned his GED, then served in the U.S. Army. Attended the University of Montana for three years before leaving after his wife became pregnant with the couple’s only child. Has worked various jobs, including on drilling rigs, drove a school bus and owned a small auto repair shop in Nevada. He pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in 1997 in Nevada. He later returned to Montana.

Q: A slate of budget cuts were made in 2017 to address a $227 million shortfall caused by less than anticipated revenue and an expensive fire season. What should the priorities be in the state budget in the next legislative session?

A: Education should be at the top of the list, followed by affordable health care and daycare. And we also need to have more livable wages.

I have a couple of ideas. Return the coal severance tax to 30 percent — also applies to question 5. One of my ideas is what I call “Oooh’s and Aww’s” permits, for example, for out-of-state and willing wildlife supporters. This would be a windshield sticker available to any visitor that would entitle them to free camping at state campgrounds and free fishing for kids under 14. This program would allow Americans from all 50 states to pitch in and support the national treasure of Montana’s wilderness that shields and protects our two national parks. Also, we should finally follow common sense and legalize cannabis. This would result in another revenue source with a tax applied to schools and health care exclusively.

Q: Do you support a sales tax or other tax increases as a way to shore up the budget and increase revenue?

A: I believe in paying our bills, so I support a limited local sales tax that collects from all the out-of-state people who come here to enjoy what we have here. But there should also be a sales tax rebate for Montana residents.

Q: Montana’s Medicaid expansion program is set to expire in 2019. Should the state renew this program?

A: Yes, it should. One way to pay for it would be to put a nickel tax on every ounce of alcohol sold in the state. The abuse of alcohol does create a burden on the system.

Q: Which other issues would you like to see addressed by the Legislature?

A: RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE! Penalize companies that intentionally use part-time workers to avoid paying benefits they are obligated to provide for full-time employees. Open a new “homesteading” program to use existing surplus public lands that would allow working families to build their own home, issue permits to allow families to harvest timber for construction purposes of a private home, tap into the coal-tax fund to finance multifamily housing construction in needed areas to be run as a nonprofit cooperative by the residents. Open abandoned mining claims to be used as experimental underground housing. I have a few hundred ideas in this area.

Montana should be the primary guardian of federal lands and should have veto power over any substantial changes to our current/previous policies.

The most urgent issue facing Montana (and the world!) is climate change. If we fail to act on this one issue NONE OF THE OTHERS MATTER! We need to move quickly to develop our tremendous wind energy resources and explore more geo-thermal and small-scale hydroelectric projects. Let’s face it, there is no magic bullet or secret formula that is going to let us clean up this huge mess overnight with no pain or discomfort — it took hundreds of years to create!

Q: Why are you the right choice to represent your district?

A: I have voted in every single election I could since I cast a vote as one of the first 18-year-olds to vote in 1972 and I regard voting as equally important as serving in our military — both are vital to keeping our democracy and our freedom. Since moving to Evergreen I noticed several elections go by with my Montana state representatives running unopposed as Republicans. Not running against them is the same as endorsing their results, and I for one am NOT happy with the way things are being done.

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