Today the Helena IR reminded us of an almost forgotten fact: that the architect of Judy Martz’s economic policy was none other than Rick Hill, who is now the odds-on-favorite to be the next Republican nominee for Governor.
Hill was picked by Martz to lead her economic transition team, and also to prepare an economic blueprint for her administration. The Martz economic plan consisted of several interesting features. For one thing, she proposed a sales tax, which is indeed something that Rick Hill has long advocated. She also ran out of money halfway through her term, and had to call a special session because the state was broke. (And in addition to being broke, she herself broke into tears when she called the press to announce the special session, one of many bizarre Martz spectacles for those who were lucky enough to witness it.
Why was she crying? The state was not only broke (Montanans were reading in the news that the Capitol could no longer afford to pay its water bill), but Montana was rated by USA Today as the one of the most reckless state governments in terms of spending (48th out of 50, on the 2003 list of fiscally responsible state governments, ranked from best to worst). Also at that time, the Work Comp system was quickly spiraling out of control in terms of the cost of premiums that businesses were being forced to cough up. This, too, grew from under the auspices of Hill who was not only Martz’s chief economic architect but also built that Work Comp system in the Racicot/Martz administration.
Today, having been under Democratic control for some time, Montana is rated among the best fiscally managed states in America, with a record surplus. So we may postulate that Montanans, if given a choice between the Martz-Hill way of doing things and Schweitzer-Bullock, will likely opt for the latter.
And will Rick Hill try to run on his accomplishments as Martz’s economic guru? Or will he run for the hills?