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Meet the Candidate: Jill Sark, HD 81 Republican

Meet the Candidate: Jill Sark, HD 81 Republican
Posted at 6:00 AM, Oct 10, 2022

HELENA — Jill Sark is running as a Republican for Montana’s House District 81 in the 2022 General Election. She is running against Democrat Melissa Romano.

Sark is a retired State of Montana employee who worked the better part of three decades with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Resources, retiring as the bureau chief in the Senior & Long Term Care Division. She also worked for seven years for the State Auditor's Office managing the health insurance program for small businesses.

The key issues Sark would like to see addressed by the next Montana Legislature are Medicaid funding for nursing homes, energy production through natural resources and small business policies.

Absentee ballots for the Tuesday, November 8, 2022, General Election go out to voters on Friday, October 14. Check out MTN’s full interview with Sark, including verbatim, below.

Jill Sark Full Interview

What is your name, party and seat you are running for?

My name is Jill Sark, party is the Republican Party, and I'm running for House District 81.

What is your occupation and history in the area?

Well, my occupation right now is I'm retired. I turned 60 in May, and I retired June 3. Prior to that, I worked for 38 and a half years for the state of Montana. The greater share that was with Department of Public Health and Human Services. I started as a receptionist and Libby and I ended as a bureau chief at Senior Long Term Care here in Helena., I've been in Helena since 2000. I'm originally from the Eureka area. Third generation. The only time I didn't work for the Department of Health is when I worked for seven years for the State Auditor's Office. And at that time, I managed health insurance program for small businesses. So this was prior to the Affordable Care Act. And so it offered subsidies to the employees and the employers, as well as a second program that offered a tax credit program for small employers that provided health insurance.

Why did you choose to run for the legislature?

Well, one, I was ready to retire and move on to something different, but I wasn't ready to just garden all the time. So I wanted to do something more and continue my public service in this way. And I wanted to be involved in drafting policies on the legislature side, as opposed to implementing what had already been passed through the legislature. When I worked for the State Auditor's office, I had quite an opportunity to be at the Capitol during session. It was a unique opportunity for me to be able to testify for bills to continue to fund the richer Montana programs. And I just knew at that time, I really want to be involved in some way.

What are three key issues you believe need to be addressed by the Montana legislature in this coming session?

Okay, the number one thing that has bubbled up in the last couple of years that I feel very passionate about, is that the funding for nursing home Medicaid must remain with nursing home Medicaid, rather than transferred out to other Medicaid programs at the end of the year. The funding, the reimbursement for nursing home patients is not anywhere close to adequate. There have been seven or eight nursing home facilities closed just recently, in this calendar year. And because I'm from Eureka, the nursing home in Eureka is very important to the residence there. I have relatives there, I have friends there, and their children and their family and their friends come to visit them. If that nursing home closes, they would the closest talent because well and I've heard that Kalispelll nursing facilities are full. So where are they going to go and how are their family and friends going to be able to visit with them they want to be in the community they are from? So that's number one.

Number two would be the oil and gas and coal, which is very important to continue to produce. And I have a I have a local kind of example. And it's where my husband works at Ash Grove, at Ash Grove Cement. The only way that they can have enough heat to fire the kiln is either through coal or natural gas. So Montana and the nation need to continue to produce oil, coal and gas in order to have things like cement. We don't have cement. We don't have concrete and look at all the building that there would be the day after I interviewed a guy from Ash Grove to get the information about what do you need, and why do you need coal and why is it so important. Every home that I went to to campaign had a concrete sidewalk concrete steps up to a concrete patio and it was it was just telling to me that how important it is. Yeah, we want it we want to save the planet. We want to do what we can do to reduce CO2. But we can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. And we have to continue with natural resources.

Did you say three? Three, okay. Small businesses because when I worked at State Auditor's office, I became close to some small businesses and I were just respect them so much of the work they do. They might have three or four or five employees. And one calls in sick somebody still has to do their job and it's Not like a bigger, you know, employer that can fill it fill in, they need to be able to, to be successful. They are the backbone of this state, and ranchers, farmers, tire shops I, I visited with them all when we manage the Insure Montana program. So I think I'm committed to reducing red tape for small businesses get regulations out of the way, and what will help them be successful as I've talked to small businesses, what I'm hearing is reduce our unemployment costs, reduce our workman's comp cost. And so they have some, you know, definite ideas of what we could do in the legislature. And that's one of my definitely want to pick up on.

State leaders have indicated that there will ikely be over $1 billion surplus possible for the state budget this coming year. Where do you think that money should go? 

Well, where the money came from is overpayment of income tax. So I support some of it going in that way. But I was thinking about it as if, what if I won $50,000 with the lottery? What would I do with it? Well, I pay off some a couple bills, and I don't have– I don't carry a lot of debt. But I would replenish my savings account, because I have some dogs that had surgery this year. So I would do that. I do not believe we can spend it on something that's ongoing, because this may be one time. If it's not one time, then let's reduce the income tax. So people always have the money back. But if there are one time expenses, one of the things I thought about were the people that had the flooding. Are there some bridges or some roads that need to be one time fixed? Are there some towns somebody I talked to when I was going door to door said in his neighborhood? There waterlines needed replaced? Well, that's a one time thing where we can help Montanans does the vets home and Columbia Falls need a roof? You know, those types of one time expenses, keep some money in savings, give some back to Montanans for sure, that overpaid. But don't over commit ourselves to something we can't maintain later.

Elections have become part of the political discourse in recent years. What are your thoughts on the state of elections here in Montana?

The state of elections here in Montana, I first applaud Christi Jacobsen, she's doing a great job as our Secretary of State. They brought forward some really good bills. And I say my own Senator Cuffe from Eureka, because that's where I'm from. Write a really good bill, about ID requirement. I don't think it was excessive. I think it was reasonable. Representative Greef from Hamilton area, change the same day voting a same day registration to the day before election day. I think that's reasonable. But I don't think we have widespread fraud in Montana. I think there are some questions. There are definitely some people. I've talked to that, Phil, there's some issues. I but I think that Christi is on the right path. I hope those bills can be eventually implemented. But I don't I don't hold out that there's huge widespread fraud in Montana. There's some issues I'm sure. I bought the list of registered voters for my district. There were some people on there. They had a resident, there's a column with their residence address, and there's a column with their mailing address. And I was surprised to see people in the mailing address with addresses outside of not only Montana, but outside of the United States. Now, maybe they were doing some work for the government. That would be normal. But just kind of cause you to question is that chapter maybe? Maybe there needs to be a cleanup of addresses more often, then, I think what they do right now is if you miss two general election cycles, then it's looked at again, so that might be an area to look at.

Is there anything else you want to say or cover that we haven't discussed so far?

I want to talk a little bit more about one of the parts of my platform is promoting increased oversight in government spending and and that the nursing home closure. I mean, it just definitely there has to be an increase for the nursing home reimbursement. Medicaid reimbursement is being looked at right now. But I don't think they've gone far enough for the nursing home reimbursement piece. There are some other areas in Medicaid, where I feel there could be some reform, that would actually save money so more people can be served. If you look at the Medicaid waiver programs, they have a waiting list. So their Medicaid waiver is not an entitlement program, which is a federal term, which means if you're eligible, you get the benefit. With Medicaid waiver, if you're eligible, you go on a waitlist. And so more people could be served on the waitlist, if there were some changes made in the Medicaid program. So I have some ideas there. The other thing I guess I'd like to throw out that we haven't talked about is Second Amendment rights. And as I'm talking to people, a lot of them say, Well, what about those automatic rifles or those assault rifles, and you know, ar 15, doesn't stand for assault rifle in it. It doesn't stand for an automatic rifle. It stands for armor like the company that designed them in the 1950s. I think there's some bad information out there that people think automatic rifle means you have a weapon that the military have you don't we're not allowed to. an AR 15 is no different than a 300 Remington that you use for hunting. It's like a Ford and a Chevy. They are still trucks. And I think there's some bad information out there about assault rifles. We don't own assault rifles, they look different than your hunting rifle. But you have to squeeze the trigger every time in order for it to fire. Whereas a military weapon, you just hold your finger on the trigger, and it goes until it runs out. So there is a difference. But I know I've explained that to some people. Some people have said I still don't think you should have them. The majority of the people in House District 81 support the second amendment rights and they would support me to oppose any bill that would limit their ownership of guns. So that is my stance.

Learn more about HD 81 Democrat Candidate Melissa Romano.