By Ron VandenBoom
Lt. Gov. Judy Martz, Republican candidate for governor, and her running mate, House Majority Whip Karl Ohs, stopped in Havre Wednesday to deliver one of 13 speeches she will be making in a three-day, state-wide blitz to unveil her economic plan to improve Montana's economy.
Called the J.O.B.S. Plan, standing for Jobs and Opportunities for a Better State, Martz told her Havre audience that nobody in Montana is proud of the fact that the state is at the bottom of per capita income first in the number of Montanans who hold multiple jobs to make ends meet.
The solution, according to Martz, is a plan that will remove barriers for business growth, reduce the regulatory burden on business, prioritize high tech and telecommunications development, infrastructure needs, and bring fair, balanced, and responsible use to Montana's natural resources.
The Martz plan also calls for the reduction of taxes and improving education by increasing pay and making teachers and students more accountable, and promoting vocational education and high-tech career preparation.
"There is no greater issue facing Montana than that of job creation and economic growth," Martz told the crowd, noting that the responsibility needs to lay directly on the governor.
She said Montana needs to make it easier to start businesses in Montana and promised to create an office directly connected to the governor's that is responsible for guiding new businesses through the regulatory, tax, financing and permitting process.
Martz promised to try and consolidate loan, grant and incentive programs under one umbrella and reinvest some of Montana's coal tax money from Wall Street onto Montana's main streets. She also said she wants a reasonable, responsible and balanced approach to resource extraction.
The plan also commits itself to Vision 2005 and the goal of doubling the value of Montana's agricultural products through diversification and value added raw commodities.
"We can open new markets and new opportunities for our producers," she said.
Martz said she also recognizes that change is inevitable and "we have to be courageous enough to embrace change, not run from it."
She announced that she wants to implement a five-year tax credit for Montana's high tech companies who want to expand or new high-tech business that want to come to Montana.
Rob Natelson, Martz's Republican opponent for governor, said yesterday that he was disappointed by the small size of the Martz tax reduction and said the plan fails to address "either the need to return the current $1111 million state budget surplus to the people or the needed to reduce Montana's marginal income and capital gains tax rates, which are the highest in the nation."
He also referred to the plan as "a recycled unkept promise," and "the same governnment-driven approach to economic development Montana politicians have used, unsuccessfully, for the past 30 years."
He accused the plan of significantly increasing the size and cost of government.
Ohs responded to Natelson's charges after Martz spoke Wednesday simply by saying "he's throwing darts."
Ohs acknowledged that Natelson has no economic plan of his own and that taking shots at JOBS was to be expected.