By Ron VandenBoom
Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Martz praised the accomplishments of the Racicot/Martz administration Sunday during a fund-raising stop in Havre. She also compared the differences between her view of government and that of her opponent, Mark O'Keefe.
Martz said during the last five years Montana's economic growth has been greater than the national average.
She attributes part of that upward swing to Gov. Racicot's success in solving the Workmen's Compensation Fund loss of $200,000 a day and turning around the welfare system that she said was totally out of control.
"All that has been turned around," she said. "During the last session (of the legislature) we gave $117 million worth of tax cuts and dropped the business equipment tax from 6 percent to 3 percent."
Martz said that from her point of view "we are starting to turn around (and) the state is starting to grow.
She said keeping that momentum going in the right direction is what her campaign is all about. She points to education as typical of the differences between her campaign and that of O'Keefe.
"O'Keefe's education plan alone is $185 million," Martz said. "Ours is $5 million in new spending."
Martz described her plan as one of getting the private sector involved with the public sector.
"It's a plan having teachers mentor students, and a plan of having teachers mentor teachers," she said. "It's a plan to have character education in the classroom and it's a plan to have parents more involved with the education of the students."
Martz said the plan was pretty much people to people and that was the kind of person she is "working with people to accomplish something instead of thinking government has to do everything."
"I think the less government does in our lives the better off we are," she said.
The same philosophy applies to creating jobs, Martz said.
"It's not the government that should create jobs, it's the private sector that does," she said. "So if we can help them and get out of the way and allow the private sector to do that, then you and I and every other taxpayer in Montana will be much better off."
Martz would like to see government more out of the way regarding elk farm initiative, I-143.
"I believe what the special session did this year was right," she said.
The moratorium placed on elk farms in Montana bans the import or export of elk and places a ban on the granting of any new licenses for elk farms.
Martz said she thinks it's wrong to tell people they can't have an alternative livestock to make a living, but she said she is concerned about chronic wasting disease (CWD) and believes the moratorium should remain in place until such time as a live test for the disease is found.
Martz also questions why people object to shooting something that's penned up. "But what about beef, what about pork, what about chickens," she said.
"I would like to see the moratorium given time to work its way out instead of saying, get rid of them (elk farms) completely.'"
Martz said her position on other issues also differs from O'Keefe.
"He doesn't want to get rid of the inheritance tax and I do," Martz said. "He wants to keep the business equipment tax at 3 percent and I think it's wrong."
She noted that the lower business equipment tax is one of the things that creates the type of environment needed for business to expand.
"And it will impact businesses whether they have five employees or 500, she said, adding that there are only 45 businesses in Montana that qualify as big business with more than 500 employees.
Martz said that only two weeks ago she was attending a business conference in Salt Lake where she asked some businessmen what they were looking for in Montana.
She said they told her they weren't looking for anything until they know who the governor is going to be.
"They know already the attitude of the man who's running against me," she said.