By Ron VandenBoom
Mike Cooney, on a campaign swing through Havre Wednesday, said he has visited with the lady who had to work four jobs to support her four children and will continue to emphasize economy, education, and our natural heritage in his campaign.
"The simple answer is that we need better paying jobs in this state," Cooney said, in answer to the lady's plight. "But how do we do that?"
"You have to look at what I call main street Montana," he said.
Cooney explained that state government needs to talk to the business and find out what it is they feel they need in order to grow and do the things they want to do.
"One thing businesses have told me is that they are frustrated because of a lack of capital," Cooney said.
Most loans Montana businesses need are small and banks he said don't want to lend the money.
"I propose a capital access program that would make money more available to small business," he said. "What's beautiful about the program is it is really more of a private sector program."
Cooney's program would match a premium that the lender and the business would agree to.
"That match is enough usually to push the lender into making the loan," he said.
Cooney said the idea for the program is not new and has been done in about 15 other states with favorable results.
Vermont he said invested $500,000 in just such a program and reaped $20 million in new money.
"As governor, I am also going to have to spend a lot of time outside Montana visiting board rooms and CEOs and letting them know what we have to offer in Montana," he said.
Cooney added that Montana's educational system, work ethic and quality of life, are all pluses that have not been adequately promoted by the current administration and it will be an important part of his job to market Montana.
He noted that Montana has also been impacted by a changing economy around the world and said it is going to have to change to meet developing markets in, and outside, the United States.
"We need to understand that we can either play by the rules the old game was played under or we can play by the new rules," he said.
Cooney said he sees the role of state government in this equation as more of a catalyst or a visionary helping to educate business and help them communicate.
"It's more that state government should be a partner," he said.
Being a partner does not mean that Cooney favors large tax incentives or tax cuts as a solution.
Cooney said he believes what Montana needs is a fair tax system and he added that he sees some "real problems" with the current tax structure.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I've got the magic plan that's going to fix it," he said. "For me to tell you that ... would be totally dishonest."
He points to tax cuts in recent years in Montana and notes that they haven't worked to revive Montana's economy.
"If you ask businesses what they want or they need to be successful or expand, taxes are way down on the list," he said.
Cooney also suggests that special tax incentives can also be unfair to other tax payers who have to pick up the tab or to other companies who have survived in Montana for a long time and have not received any special tax breaks.
"How would you feel if your competition got a tax break and you didn't," Cooney asked. "I know how I'd feel."