By BOB ANEZ/Associated Press Writer
HELENA - Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Brown said Monday his plan for economic development will produce more than 13,000 new jobs in Montana by the end of his first four-year term.
Brown, who formally filed for office Monday with running mate Dave Lewis, said the bulk of the new jobs will come in the health care and tourism industries as a result of just three proposals in his ''Advance Montana'' plan: Increased funding for a program that provides health insurance to poor children, an overhaul of two-year education programs to train more health care workers, and additional money for tourism. Those proposals combined will create 6,700 jobs, he said.
In addition, diverting deposits into the coal tax trust fund to spend on public works projects will result in 1,900 more jobs, Brown said.
He said he would take credit for generating another 3,200 jobs by blocking any efforts to reverse tax breaks given by the 2003 Legislature, a move some Democrats have suggested as a means of dealing with a potential budget deficit.
He said another 980 jobs will be created by his administration promoting coalbed methane development, wind energy production and increased timber harvest on state land. An estimated 400 more jobs in related businesses would occur due to increased economic activity.
Brown acknowledged some risk in suggesting such detailed job growth, but said he wants voters to have hard numbers on which to judge his performance.
''When you try to be as specific as you feel you honestly can be, as we are trying to do here, you open yourself to a level of accountability,'' he said. ''And that's as it should be.
''If you run for public office and you're not specific at all, then you don't have any mandate for anything,'' Brown said.
He vowed to control government spending, but when asked for specifics on that issue, he said, ''I don't know that we're prepared to discuss a whole lot of detail on that today.''
Likewise, Brown declined to say how he would deal with a possible budget deficit of at least $100 million in the next Legislature.
''We're concerned about what we see when we look into the future for a budget deficit,'' he said. ''But I think it's too early to make any judgments about what the budget deficit will be or even absolutely that there will be a budget deficit.''
Brown, who is in his first term as secretary of state, has made economic development a cornerstone of his campaign since he began his race for governor eight months ago.
The former high school teacher from Whitefish also has voiced support for education. Brown said Monday the increase in jobs will provide more money to improve the state's entire education system.
Brown faces four challengers in the GOP primary: Billings business consultant Pat Davison, Billings oilman and former state senator Tom Keating, Laurel business owner and former senator Ken Miller, and Glenn Schaffer of Billings.
Two Democrats are seeking their party's gubernatorial nomination: Whitefish farmer Brian Schweitzer and Gallatin County Commissioner John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway.
Front-runner Schweitzer dismissed Brown's jobs creation promise, saying he and Lewis are career politicians who each have worked in government for 30 years and created no jobs but their own.
Also, he said, much of Brown's plan relies on an often-rejected idea of stopping deposits into the coal trust fund.
''That's right out of the same old tired playbook,'' Schweitzer said. ''Montanans know better than let their politicians get their hands in the cookie jar.''
The last independent poll in December showed Brown and Schweitzer in a too-close-to-call race. The other GOP contenders fared worse in matchups with Schweitzer.