HD-7: Democrat supports restoring state health budget

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James Cossitt

JIM COSSITT

Age: 60

Party: Democrat

Family: Single (divorced); brother and niece in Des Moines, Iowa; both parents deceased within last 8 years

Occupation: Attorney and counselor at law, specialize in bankruptcy, debtor/creditor, insolvency, reorganization and commercial litigation

Background: American Board of Certification in consumer and business bankruptcy law; Juris Doctor, 1986, University of Iowa College of Law; member of State Bar of Montana and NW Montana Bar Association, 1998 to present; National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees 1989 to present; life member of American Bankruptcy Institute; extensive experience in speaking engagements, consulting and publications related to bankruptcy practice.

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. Restoring the cuts that were made to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHSS). As the Montana Budget & Policy Center observed: “Cuts to health and human services almost always come with a loss in federal funds...An example is Medicaid. For every dollar a state spends on Medicaid services, the federal government matches that dollar with $1 to $2, depending on the exact program. It’s important to include the loss of federal funds, because that compounds the loss of services for seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families across the state. When we total state general fund cuts and loss of federal funds, we are quickly reaching over $200 million in cuts to services funded through DPHHS.”

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

A. I do not support a general sales tax, but do support broadening the existing local resort tax so that it is applicable to more areas or the entire state. My view is that visitors (short and long-term) need to pay their fair share for services and infrastructure. The failure to accomplish that unfairly burdens full time Montanan citizens.

To increase revenue, I support repeal of various tax expenditures (deductions) such as: a) the special treatment for capital gains; b) the “waters edge election”; and c) oil and gas new production holiday. There are others that need more scrutiny and possible repeal as well.

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

A. Yes.

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

A. • Economic fairness and opportunity — a livable wage, equal pay for equal work, affordable housing

• Affordable health car and competitive markets — Reasonable prices for medical care and prescription drugs; regulation of monopoly or oligopoly industries and providers.

• Public lands and access and balanced resource use — Providing for, continued access and wise use of our public lands and resources, consistent with the clean and healthful environment protection in the Montana constitution; ensuring that extractive industries post the necessary financial instruments for clean up at the front end or commencement of their activities.

• Ethics and integrity of the political process —Getting and keeping money out of the political process. High ethical standards, transparency and accountability at all levels of government.

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

A. I’ve spent 32 years in the legal system as a bankruptcy lawyer resolving the economic and financial problems of consumers and small businesses. I’ve seen first-hand the impact of gross income inequality and the decline of the folks not in the top 10 percent of the economic ladder.

As a legislator, I will use my background, experience and skill to propose legislation to address these issues. Just as in private practice, I’m focused on solving problems without compromising core principles – but also knowing when it’s time to get things done – when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, the point of diminishing returns.

I look forward to the opportunity to represent the citizens of House District 7, my neighbors.

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