Rick Hill Ad Watch

HELENA — This 30-second TV ad criticizing Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill is from the Montana Jobs, Education and Technology Political Action Committee (JET-Pac), which is financed primarily by the Democrat Governors Association. It began airing in Montana last week.

Script: Narrator: “Who is Rick Hill?”

Rick Hill: “It’s not complicated.”

Narrator: “Hill was a lobbyist, who tried to slap Montanans with a $400 million sales tax. A Washington, D.C., congressman who voted to cut Medicare and raise premiums for seniors. A long-time insurance executive who supports a plan that could charge women higher insurance rates than men. Lobbyist. Washington, D.C., congressman. Insurance executive.

Hill: “It’s not complicated.”

Narrator: “He’s right. And Rick Hill is wrong for Montana.”

Analysis: Hill did work as a legislative lobbyist in 1993 for the administration of newly elected Republican Gov. Marc Racicot, trying to persuade the Legislature to endorse Racicot’s agenda — including a tax-reform package whose centerpiece was a $400 million sales tax. The proposal offset much of the tax increase with lower property and state income taxes. Racicot had campaigned on the issue, saying he would bring a sales-tax package to voters to decide. The Legislature put the package before voters, who overwhelmingly rejected it in a special election in June 1993.

As a candidate for governor, Hill has not proposed a sales tax, has said he has no intention of bringing one forward, and that he wouldn’t sign one if the Legislature approved it. However, he has said within the past year he would be “open” to a sales tax if it were a “substitute tax” replacing another tax.

The claim that Hill voted as a congressman to “cut Medicare and raise premiums for seniors” is a reference to his votes in 1997 for a federal budget measure that passed with bipartisan support and was signed and supported by then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. It did reduce Medicare spending $115 billion over five years, slightly raised Medicare premiums for senior citizens covered by government health-insurance program, included block grants to states to cover uninsured children, and balanced the federal budget.

Hill is a former insurance executive, having owned and sold a firm that sold surety bonds to businesses. The claim that he “supports a plan that could charge women higher insurance rates than men” is a reference to his stated support for repealing Montana’s unisex insurance law, which forbids insurance companies from using a customer’s gender when setting their insurance premiums.

Supporters of the law say it has prevented insurance companies from charging women higher rates for life and health insurance. However, the unisex law has meant higher auto-insurance rates for young women and girls.