By Ron VandenBoom
Bruce Simon, Republican candidate for State Auditor, says balance is the watch-word of his campaign.
It is a watch-word that Simon said will epitomize his office if he's elected State Auditor.
The State Auditor's office regulates Montana's insurance industry as well as securities and investments in the state.
"So it's a balancing act as I see it," he said in a recent interview. "You take care of the rotten eggs, but you don't scramble the whole dozen."
Simon was referring primarily to the insurance industry in Montana that according to Simon needs to be looked on as an important industry to Montana consumers while at the same time being treated fairly by the State Auditor.
"I don't see the industry as the enemy," he said. "They're an important part of Montana, they're an important part of our economy and they're very important to Montana consumers."
He noted that Montanans spend more on insurance premiums than they do in taxes to support the entire general fund, adding that "beating up on the industry" will only cause insurance companies to leave the state.
"But a consumer advocate in my eyes also maintains a healthy industry," he said. "If we simply and constantly are beating up on insurance companies, then eventually insurance companies say, well Montana's only .3 percent of the market, why do we have to bother with Montana.'"
He stressed that maintaining a competitive market place will help keep the prices down for the consumer.
Simon has served 14 years in the Montana Legislature and has also served as president of the Montana Retail Association during the 1970s and also during 1982 he served on the Governor's Council on Management. He has sat on and headed several legislative committees where his degree in commerce and masters degree in marketing management have given him, he says, a good understanding of business in Montana.
The first thing Simon said he hopes to do if elected is to bring people into the office of the State Auditor that are "dedicated to doing the job." He added that he wants to instill in them a pride in serving the people.
Simon said that for too many years the office had been used as a springboard for auditors who wanted to be governor, adding that too much politics had been played with the office.
"I'm not running for governor so I'm not going to worry about the politics and I'm not going to have the politics in my office," he said. "And that will be a big change."
The State Auditor also holds one of five seats on the State Land Board and Simon says here too balance will be the watch-word.
"I believe in responsible use of State Lands," he said. "So I see nothing wrong with cattle grazing on State Lands and I see nothing wrong with a sustainable harvest of trees on state lands."
Simon referred to state lands as "part of the economic engine that drives the state of Montana," generating over $40 million a year for public education.
"We need to maintain that kind of revenue stream," he said. "We need to enhance our state to make things better instead of finding ways not to have things happen."
He noted as an example the closing of a sawmill in the Flathead Valley that once had an $8 million payroll.
"They're sitting in the middle of a forest and they can't get logs because Smoky the Bear lives there or some spotted owl thing," he said.
He also expressed concern over Stone Container and the 600 jobs with an average wage of $45,000 annually that could be risked if for some reason the plant couldn't get wood chips.
"I emphasize responsible use of the land," he said. "We're not going to rape the land, I won't tolerate it, I grew up here, and I want to continue to live here... but I also like to see people have decent paying jobs that can live here."