HELENA — Here is a summary of where the two major gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Steve Bullock and Republican Rick Hill, stand on some major issues:
Abortion: Bullock supports a woman’s right to have an abortion. Hill opposes abortion, considering it to be the destruction of a human life. He favors banning late-term or “partial-birth” abortions and favors requiring a minor’s parent to be notified before an abortion. He favors requiring a woman’s “informed consent” before an abortion.
Business equipment tax: Bullock said he will propose eliminating the property tax on business equipment on small businesses whose equipment has an aggregate market value of less than $100,000. This would eliminate the tax for more than 60 percent of Montana’s 18,630 businesses. Hill has said he would like to eventually eliminate the business equipment tax, but first wants to study Montana’s taxes to find ways to make them more competitive regionally and more attractive to technology-oriented businesses.
Bonding for public buildings: Bullock has endorsed the $100 million bonding bill that was defeated in 2011 and would have paid for new university system buildings, a veterans’ home in Butte and a new state history museum in Helena bill. Hill has said he supports some of the projects but wants to evaluate each of them if elected governor before making a commitment.
Education: Critical of the dropout rate in high schools and the percentage of Montana high school graduates who need to take remedial math and reading classes in the Montana university system, Hill favors more competition in K-12 education. He supports creating charter schools and giving a tax break to those who donate money to foundations that give scholarships so low-income kids can attend private colleges. Bullock opposes Hill’s ideas. He hasn’t said what kind of financial commitment he will make for K-12 schools, saying he wants to better know the size of the state budget surplus before deciding how much money he’ll propose for schools.
Gay marriage: Both Bullock and Hill oppose legalizing the rights of same-sex couples to marry in Montana. They pointed to the Montana Constitution provision, adopted in 2004, that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Medical marijuana: Hill said he supports Initiative Referendum 124, which would leave in place the more restrictive law regulating medical marijuana passed in 2011. Bullock said he will vote against the measure, which would put back in place the original 2004 initiative legalizing the use of marijuana for some medicinal purposes. The 2011 law repealed the initiative.
Medicaid expansion: Hill has said he sees potential problems with the expansion of Medicaid in Montana under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” The program could 50,000 low-income people to the state Medicaid plan. Hill said he won’t support it “if it puts Montana taxpayers at risk and increases the cost of health care in Montana.” Bullock said he is waiting to see what the proposed federal rules are for the program.
Minimum wage: Bullock drafted and strongly supports the 2006 voter-approved initiative that raised Montana’s minimum wage and provides for automatic cost-of-living adjustments. Hill said he opposed the measure on grounds it leads to fewer jobs paying minimum wage.
Natural resources development: Hill has said he wants to remove regulatory and legal barriers to clear the way for more development of oil, gas and coal, but has not been specific about which ones. He has criticized Bullock for voting on the state Land Board against the lease of the Otter Creek coal. Bullock has touted his Land Board support for development of natural resources and defended his Otter Creek coal vote, saying he tried to get a higher price for the coal.
Pay raises for public employees: Bullock has endorsed the proposed pay raise deal negotiated by Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and public employee unions calling for a 5 percent increase in all employees’ base pay in each of the next two years, subject to legislative approval. Many state employees haven’t had a raise in their base pay in four years. Hill says half of the executive branch employees received pay raises from the separate broadband plan in the past year. He said his first priority would be getting the other half a pay raise. He said he has not talked to a single legislator who supports the idea of approving the two 5 percent raises.
Property taxes: Bullock has proposed a one-time, $400 rebate costing $100 million for Montana residents who live in their principal residences. Hill wants to lower property taxes by using oil and gas revenues to lower property taxes.
Oil and gas tax holiday: Neither of the candidates favors eliminating the state’s oil and gas holiday, which provides some tax incentives, particularly for lower tax rates for horizontally drilled oil wells for their first 18 months of production.
Right to work: Hill supports enacting a state right-to-work law that prohibits a company and a union from signing a contract that would require affected employees to be union members. Bullock said he would veto such a proposal.
Sales tax: Bullock said he opposes a sales tax and would veto one if it reaches his desk as governor. Hill also says he would oppose a sales tax and veto it. Earlier in the campaign, Hill indicated in response to questions he would be receptive to looking at a sales tax as a substitute for state income or property tax, but has dropped the idea.
University system tuition: Bullock supports Schweitzer’s plan to freeze tuition for students the next two years with a commitment of $34 million from the state general fund. Hill said he wants to stop tuition from rising, but would do it by pushing the university system to build a budget that keeps costs in check in order to achieve the goal of preventing rising tuition.