ON THE STUMP — Brad Huffman talks issues with gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill at the Pondera Golf Club on Friday afternoon. Hill was in Conrad to visit with folks and see what was on their mind for the upcoming elections. I-O Photo by Buck Traxler
By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
Like so many Big Sky success stories, Rick Hill, GOP candidate for governor, started from modest beginnings.
One of four kids he had polio at an early age, but came on to be a captain of his school’s wrestling team and was the first in his family to attend college. He has been a successful businessman and forged a reputation as one who can grow and create jobs.
He was elected to Congress in 1996 and quickly became a leader helping to reform taxes and balancing budgets.
However, Hill may be best remembered as being picked by former Governor Racicot to take on the crisis of Workman’s Comp which at the time had a $550 million deficit and was ranked the second highest in the nation.
After being a volunteer chairman for three years, he had the deficit turned around to have a $120 million surplus and rates were cut by over 50 percent.
He had to leave Congress because of vision problems which have now been taken care of and he is on track to be the next governor of Montana.
He tells, the I-O, “I support reforms that will put Montanans to work. We can reverse the negative attitude about business by welcoming new investment and making our bureaucracy into facilitators instead of regulators.”
The candidate notes that Montana has had the slowest job creation over the last seven years, “that’s significant unemployment in Montana, we have so much going for us and an abundance of resources, we just need to be better than seventh in the nation in unemployment.”
Hill is pro-life, support traditional marriage and opposes sex education in schools. He is against Obamacare, cap and trade, and new monument designations.
He notes that the state government has been spending more money than it brings in every month. “I support priority budgeting that judges programs based on effectiveness and gets rid of those that don’t work,” he says.
The candidate notes that lowering income and capital gains taxes and getting rid of the business equipment tax will make our tax structure competitive with other states and spur growth.
Looking at education, Hill said our schools should be the best in the nation, but falling graduation rates and too little accountability are leaving our kids ill-served.
He is in favor of merit pay, charter schools, and newer measures to make sure the schools are preparing kids for the 21st Century economy.
From an interview at the I-O, Hill attended a fund-raiser and question and answer session at the Pondera Golf Club.