Gazette opinion: Hill best prepared to serve as governor

2012-10-14T00:00:00Z 2012-10-17T11:35:08Z Gazette opinion: Hill best prepared to serve as governor The Billings Gazette
October 14, 2012 12:00 am

In the race for governor, Montanans have a choice of Republican and Democratic candidates with starkly different views on how to move our great state forward.

Steve Bullock has done a good job as attorney general in his first term. He worked with lawmakers of both parties to successfully enact his proposals for curbing drunken driving and prescription drug abuse. It is, therefore, disappointing that Bullock hasn’t brought the same passion, specifics and organization to his campaign for governor.

Rick Hill, whom Montanans elected to two terms in the U.S. House, and who served as Gov. Marc Racicot’s legislative liaison, has hit the gubernatorial campaign trail with a load of proposals for moving Montana forward.

In Congress more than a dozen years ago, Hill pushed for the deal that helped Montana obtain the Otter Creek coal tracts from the federal government — and he supports leasing the coal.

Hill puts his focus on creating more high-paying jobs in the state. Montana must raise per-capita earnings, which are among the lowest in the 50 states. He would bring business experience to the office.

Hill is a proponent of priority based budgeting, which could help the state make smarter choices about allocating limited dollars.

Hill has proposed shifting revenue from our natural resources — specifically, oil and gas — to provide tax relief for property owners. Hill’s plan is reasonable and worth exploring. Permanent tax relief is preferable to one-time payments, such as the $400 per homeowner credit Bullock has proposed.

Hill supports using coal-tax revenue to help Eastern Montana communities improve their infrastructure and seems to be very knowledgeable about the infrastructure needs of the areas most affected by the Bakken oil boom.

Hill says school funding would grow as natural resource revenue grows. At the debate in Billings last week, he said “education is always a priority.” We call on him to make K-16 education his top priority if he is elected. Montana public schools, colleges and universities need the resources — staff, facilities and sufficient funding — to educate all our children and train all our residents for work and life in a competitive, changing market. Montana K-12 schools today already are held accountable by a battery of standardized tests and outcomes measures. They need support to educate students who will graduate ready for college and careers. Public schools need support to fix identified problems.

If elected, Hill plans to meet regularly with legislative leaders to build relationships between the governor’s office and members of both parties. He would work more effectively with lawmakers than his predecessor has.

Hill is acquainted with just about every problem Montana has had. He comes across as the candidate best prepared to make all the decisions a governor must make.

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