BOZEMAN, Mont. - Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) agreed to participate in a monthly Q&A with NBC Montana to discuss current issues in Washington, D.C., that affect Montanans. This month we asked Daines about what's next with the efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, changes affecting Montanans that would come with President Trump's budget and the challenges facing Montana farmers in ranchers with the struggling agriculture industry. The following is that dialog:
NBC Montana: You were a vocal critic of the failed Republican health care plan. What happens next? What are you doing to ensure Montanans have access to affordable health care?
Daines: Well the No. 1 priority is to make health care affordable again. I want to see premiums go down to make health care affordable for all Montanans. What this bill did was it didn't decrease prices, it increased the prices. We saw dramatic increases in health care premiums for Montanans last year, anywhere from a 27 to 58-percent increase. That's unacceptable for Montana.
NBC Montana: What is your take on President Trump's budget and how will it affect Montana?
Daines: Well, I was pleased to see President Trump reverse some of EPA regulations that would have killed our coal jobs in Montana. Montanans want to see an all-of-the-above energy portfolio. Renewables, as well as natural gas, oil and coal. This balanced approach is important for tax revenues, as well as reliable, low-cost sources of energy.
NBC Montana: Montana's agricultural industry has been in the spotlight recently. What did you learn from your recent roundtables on the subject? Should farmers and ranchers be worried about the industry's future?
Daines: We're struggling right now with agriculture in Montana with low commodity prices. In fact I (just) sent a letter with 39 other senators, (including) Sen. Tester, urging President Trump to discuss reopening Chinese markets to U.S. beef. (Agriculture) is Montana's No. 1 economic driver. Just a few weeks ago I spoke to 750 FFA-ers in Great Falls -- the future of agriculture in Montana. That's why, on May 31 and June 1, I'll be holding an (agriculture) summit in Great Falls. You can go to agsummitmontana.com to register. We want as many Montanans there as possible.