House District 66 Candidates: JP Pomnichowski (D), Dave Ponte (R)

1) To what extent will you combat financial barriers (i.e. rising tuition) that students face in their pursuit of higher education?

POMNICHOWSKI: In 2007, I was proud to vote for a tuition freeze for Montana university students, the first tuition freeze in 20 years. I will support another tuition freeze, as well as a greater state share of funding for our university system and our two-year colleges and vocational and technical training centers. A greater state share means that more money for the operation of our university system is paid by the state, not by students. I also carried the bill in the House for the six-mill levy, which voters passed overwhelmingly. The six-mill levy has been a Montana tradition for 60 years. It’s a levy that Montanans assess on themselves to help pay for our university system. I served in Montana’s House of Representatives in the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions.

PONTE: I encourage all students to read Ludwig von Mises’ treatise “Human Action” — this will answer most questions in regards to financing and rising costs. You will receive an education in economics plus some exposure to economic history.

2) Montana State University just completed a long-term strategic plan which includes calls for raising enrollment by 2,000, increasing faculty pay to 80 percent of the national average, priority budgeting and enhancing the student experience. What steps can Montana’s lawmakers take to assist in the pursuit of MSU’s goals?

POMNICHOWSKI: I voted for expanded programs at the Agricultural Research and Extension Station, for $28 million to renovate Gaines Hall, and for the construction of the new chemistry building. I voted for distance learning through the Montana Virtual Academy, and I served on the board of Gallatin College, our two-year school with classes at MSU. I passed a law to help high-tech discoveries from MSU research become commercial businesses, with state matching grants to get those innovation businesses started. I’d like to see more classes, and more sections of classes to accommodate MSU’s growing enrollment. The legislature can do a lot to advance MSU’s goals to continually improve the campus and the education offered at MSU and other Montana educational institutions.

PONTE: What Montana State’s plan is: a proposal to grow the bureaucracy and obviously cause student tuition to increase, whereby future students will question what they are really getting for their dollars and [if they] can continue to afford higher education.

3) Are Montana’s universities spending student and public money efficiently?

POMNICHOWSKI: For the most part, our higher education system is spending its money well. I’ll work to lower fees on students, and I’ll vote for no increases in tuition; a greater state share of university funding will help.

PONTE: Students and taxpayers are being milked by the bureaucracy. This is inherent in any public institution. They are a monopoly! They have no competition within the state.