Is up at Left in the West. Head over there and welcome new lady-blogger Carla Augustad.
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?
(A 2012 Montana election primer for Democrats)
A while back I posted some talking points for Democrats. A few commenters asked for some elaboration. These points are very important for candidates and citizens alike, and I will reiterate them today.
It must first be understood that the GOP imbeciles in Montana (meaning most candidates, operatives, party leaders, heads of conservative groups, legislators and so on), have been in a state of perpetual anger and rage for the last six years or so. Why? Because they controlled Montana for 20 years, virtually ran it into the ground, and then have since been forced look on, helplessly, as Democrats took over the reins, went to work, and helped Montana make great strides.
Republicans cannot abide the fact that Dems have gotten the state in strong shape after decades of GOP neglect. Thus they have resorted to a rather sad strategy: they denigrate, deride and degrade (trash, in essence) the state of Montana, the Montana economy, and state government, even though we have one of the best economies and most efficient state governments in America.
1. Under Democrats, Montana has developed more energy (wind, coal, oil, gas) than at any time in history. (http://www.innovatemontana.
2. For the last several years Montana has been ranked consistently among the top ten states in America for our tax climate and our business climate. We are one of the best places in America to start a business, across the board. Just this week, we were rated 8th best in the nation. (http://helenair.com/news/local/state-and-regional/study-ranks-montana-eighth-in-business-tax-climate/article_ad5e20da-47ec-11e1-8152-0019bb2963f4.html)
3. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. This week, it went down again, to below 7%. (http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/c068f307265449a18d8af20db28f23d1/MT–Montana-Unemployment/)
4. This has not gone unnoticed by Montana voters, for when asked, 55% of them recently said in a survey that the state economy is on the right track as opposed to the wrong track. In only three other states in America did voters respond so positively to that question. In most states, voters think their state economy sucks. (http://www.publicsectorinc.
5. Finally, Montana was recently rated as the best fiscally managed state in America. Eighty-three percent of Montanans think that state government is managing taxpayer money wisely. No other state came even close. (http://mtcowgirl.com/2011/
6. And why shouldn’t they feel this way? Montana has a $400 million surplus. In fact, for the last five years Montana has had a record sized surplus. And only a handful of states have surpluses right now. Most are in financial crisis. And Dems have cut more taxes than Republicans ever did. (http://helenair.com/news/
7. Don’t just take my (liberal) word for it. Ask FoxNews or the Wall Street Journal, both of whom recently editorialized about the spectacular fiscal shape the state is in. For that matter, so did Denny Rehberg and Newt Gingrich. And so has every major newspaper in Montana.
8. The extra dough that Democrats have saved taxpayers has been (1) returned in the form of a rebate (the largst taxpayer rebate ever in Montana) and (2) spent on education, a historic investment in schools. (http://www.governor.mt.gov/boed/docs/GovernorsPresentationToBoardOfEducation_Jan_2008.pdf) see page 5
These are important points that, too often, are not internalized by Democratic candidates. But they are crucial. They are a dagger in the heart of Republicans. The message is very clear: In Montana, Democrats are a special breed, who are good with money, run government efficiently, and know how to create jobs and a strong business climate. It’s why Schweitzer has become one of the most popular Governors in America; it’s why Democrats won big in 2008; and it’s probably why Tester is leading Rehberg.
Why are these points, as opposed to other things that Democrats like to talk about, the ones that must be emphasized? Because they rebut the false story told by Republicans which is that Montana is strangling business with too much regulation, too many taxes, too much spending, etc.
This is what they are saying right now. Rick Hill, GOP candidate for Governor, was on the radio for a half hour the other day, and all he could do was trash Montana. The irony, of course, is the Rick Hill is a teat-sucker of major proportions. He sucked large at the government teat, earning almost a million bucks in taxpayer dollars as a landlord who rented property to the government. All while his wife was working in the governor’s office. And he’s complaining about “too much spending”?
Aside from being ineffective politically (because the polls show us that voters side with Democrats and like what they are seeing out of state government), it’s very unpatriotic and a truly awful dereliction of one’s civic duty, to throw your state under the bus, tell lies about it, in order to win an election. Democrats like Schweitzer try to recruit businesses and market the state’s assets, and the GOP undercuts the whole effort by telling the whole world how bad Montana is for business, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Finally, I got an interesting comment from a blogger who said that these talking points I’ve provided for Dems “sound like Republican talking points.” Trust me, there is nothing Republican about balancing the government checkbook and running a surplus, or using government in an active way to attract business to the state. Republicans know how to create deficits, cut taxes while fighting trillion dollar wars, and promote Federal Identification cards, and fight for Spear Hunting rights. What Montana needs is strong management of an effective state government, and Dems have provided it. Adopting the Gold Standard is not a credible economic policy. Again, the facts are in: Democrats know how to manage money; republicans do not.
And remember, there is a reason you hear the GOP gubernatorial candidates talk so much about Obama. It’s because they need to present voters with a Democratic boogeyman, and they can’t find one in in Montana.
The good news is, Democratic candidates are now on the offense talking about jobs, as you can see from the articles below. Armed with the facts, we can all help them win.
I received the following chart today, which gives the results of a recently completed survey of voters in ten states. It was commissioned by a consortium of groups, including the Montana Policy Institute, a conservative group based in Bozeman. The poll says that 83% of Montanans believe that state government is being run efficiently, and 55% believe Montana’s economy is on the right track. Montana leads the other states in both categories.
Might I remind everyone that these attitudes about the efficacy of state government are coming at a time when the entire executive branch of Montana is controlled by Democrats?
Two questions were asked: 1) Do you believe that the economy in your state is headed in the right direction or wrong direction? 2) Do you believe your state government is being run efficiently or inefficiently? Here are the ten state results. Montana is highest in both categories, by a mile.
|STATE ECONOMY HEADED
IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?
|FL||27% YES||63% NO||47% YES||51% NO|
|IL||23% YES||74% NO||23% YES||76% NO|
|IN||28% YES||53% NO||77% YES||16% NO|
|MI||23% YES||56% NO||41% YES||53% NO|
|NY||26% YES||58% NO||62% YES||37% NO|
|MT||55% YES||37% NO||83% YES||17% NO|
|NC||18% YES||70% NO||55% YES||39% NO|
|OH||20% YES||71% NO||49% YES||42% NO|
|PA||29% YES||62% NO||45% YES||53% NO|
|WI||39% YES||51% NO||57% YES||37% NO|
Almost nothing in politics ever polls at 83%. If a politician jumped into an icy river to save a grandma from drowning, and voters were asked if they approve or disapprove of her actions, it would probably poll only 80-20. So the 83% percent number is really astounding. Alas, all of this is terrible news for the Montana Tea Party and the GOP. Montana Teabaggers and Republicans spend their days frothing and foaming and ranting and raving, blurting out lies to crowds filled with angry imbeciles, about how state Government is spending too much money, taxing too much, and regulating too much. None of this information appears to be working. These lies are not affecting voters. Voters like what they are seeing. So Montana Democrats must now take these poll results, and stuff them down the throats, and up the asses, of their right-wing critics, to victory in 2012.
You remember them – the “leaders” who responded to Montana’s economic challenges with theatrics like the spear hunting bill? They just wrote a letter to Congressman Rehberg pushing him to follow their economic policies.
Congressman Rehberg–who has voted to increase the debt ceiling nine times (yes, NINE TIMES) —is more than willing to listen to extremists who had more success embarrassing Montana than actually creating jobs.
Here’s more of what Congressman Rehberg’s council of economic advisors in the state legislature have in store for Montana:
The Gold Standard – Congressman Rehberg can expect to get a letter asking him to replace US dollars with gold any day now. Rep. Bob Wagner (of CNN fame) introduced a bill that could force Montanans to pay their rent with gold.
Cracking Down on DUI Laws – Rep. Alan Hale told Montanans that DUI laws “are not doing small businesses in our state any good.” Congressman Rehberg has had his own brush with drinking-related accidents, so he might be willing to listen if Rep. Hale asked for help in “reigning in” DUI laws.
Tax Breaks for Millionaires – Legislative Republicans voted to protect tax breaks for millionaires, while gutting education and health care for Montanans. Congressman Rehberg has already thought of this one, but as a millionaire, he wouldn’t need much prodding to vote himself another tax cut.
Since the American Legislative Exchange Council (known by its fans in the GOP legislative caucus as ALEC) describes itself as promoters of free markets, limited government, federalism in state legislatures, it isn’t hard to figure out that they tend to favor Republicans.
So imagine the reaction of Republicans when ALEC released a recent report that ranked Montana as No. 2 in the nation when it comes to economic performance. The report, entitled “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index”, can be downloaded here. Perhaps Republicans will attempt to ‘refudiate’ the report’s findings, but that’s going to be difficult.
This confirms the findings from an earlier report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the national organization which, like it’s state counterpart and ALEC, is a Republican machine) that rated Montana as the number one state in America for entrepreneurship, as well as for business innovation.
Montana Republicans probably don’t ‘preciate the documentin’ of things that they’re hoping we won’t read about, or remember when we go to the polls in November, especially from their own organizations. Perhaps this is why they are running around as if the top issue on the minds of voters is medical marijuana. While regulating medical marijuana may the most important issue in the state to some, and drugs are certainly more fun for reporters to write about than the economy, it is the economy that is the top issue on the minds of most voters, and in Montana it is Democrats who have managed it well.