Editor’s Note: Following is Nancy Ballance’s statement of candidacy in her own words.
I am formally announcing that I am running for Senate District 44, the seat occupied for the past eight years by my friend and colleague, Senator Fred Thomas. As most of you know, I am term-limited out of the House and Senator Thomas is term-limited out of the Senate. My House district makes up half of Senator Thomas’ Senate district with the other half represented by Representative Sharon Greef and Ed Greef before Sharon.
When I ran for the House, eight years ago, my plan was to hold the House seat for two sessions and see if I could actually make a difference before deciding to continue running. My first term was interesting and productive but it wasn’t until my second term I realized the amount of time it actually takes to achieve lasting change – almost always more than one session.
Now, after eight years, I can look back on some major and lasting accomplishments that have benefitted Montana and Ravalli County.
As Appropriations Chair and Finance Committee member, I worked on funding and policy for Education, Health & Human Services, Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, Economic Development, Corrections, Infrastructure, Transportation, Livestock, Agriculture and more.
And, as much as some politicians like to talk about explosive growth in state government, that simply is not the case under my watch.
During my time as Appropriations Chair:
• growth in state government has been kept below the growth in Personal Income
• cost of growth in state services has also been kept below the growth in Personal Income
• number of state employees has gone down by nearly 400 permanent employees.
Other candidates can talk about Big Government growth, but that’s not what happened under my watch.
So, after eight years, why continue? I’m termed out in the House – why go on to the Senate?
After a lot of soul searching and thinking about playing golf with my husband every day, training my dog, playing with my grandsons, and getting back into my workshop, why not kick back and really retire this time. Why not turn it over to someone else?
The reason is that I have earned a reputation in the legislature of knowing how to pull people together and get things done and many of the things I’ve been working on are not quite done yet.
Three areas I feel compelled to continue working on are: Healthcare, Education and Economic Development.
As Republican legislators, we voted down Medicaid Expansion in 2013 and 2015. But it did pass and over time we saw that the program was providing services to people whose needs were not being met elsewhere. And, without
those services, the cost to the state was much higher than the cost of Medicaid Expansion. We also knew that our local hospital and clinics could not continue to operate with the high level of uncompensated care they experienced before Medicaid Expansion. But we also knew that the system was being abused. People with major assets in money, houses, cars were accessing the program. We knew that some people who were capable of working were choosing not to work but still had access. And we knew that there was undetected fraud and abuse in the system.
When the I-185 initiative failed in 2019, we all went into the session knowing some form of Medicaid Expansion would pass. Some of us chose to roll up our sleeves and help craft the most conservative solution possible in the political climate. And some legislators chose not to participate but simply vote “no” to any solution. The reformed program that passed is better than the previous version of Medicaid Expansion but it could have been so much better.
The Medicaid reforms are expected to bring down the number of eligible Medicaid Expansion enrollees from the 2018 high of 9% of the population to around 6-7% of the population. Our neighbor, North Dakota, however, is less than 3% of their population, so we still have more work to do.
We need a senator with the courage and experience to continue working on the tough issues, not someone who will simply cast a “no” vote then go home and throw rocks at those who have the courage to do the hard work.
We have a great start on proficiency learning, giving students more opportunities and more responsibility in their own education. But we are just getting started with a lot more work to do.
We need a senator who will work with the schools, not against them.
We are beginning to see strong business growth in the county but again there is a lot more work to do. The Ravalli Economic Development Authority is taking advantage of every opportunity and we need a senator who will work with them to identify our needs and work to change state programs to meet our needs.
A good example is the film industry. We worked to understand the specific type of tax credit that was needed by their industry and developed one that is uniquely Montanan. We also made sure it only applies if the work is done in Montana by Montana workers.
Again, it is hard work that takes time and commitment to see it through to the end and make sure it doesn’t get vetoed by the Governor.
We need a senator who will work with our business leaders and define state policies that meet their needs.
So, that’s why I have decided not to retire but to keep working:
• to further limit Medicaid Expansion to those who have no other alternatives;
• to improve education, giving students more opportunity and responsibility over their own education; and
• to continue working on growing our economy.
That is why I’m running for Senate District 44. You can contact me at 363-8416.