By Ron VandenBoom
Reaction to new administrations in Washington and Helena are seen as a cause for celebration to Brad Lotton, chairman of the Hill County Republican Central Committee and his fellow Republicans. But concerns over energy costs and the economy shade some of the glitter.
"I think everybody's pretty happy that we're on the way now," said Lotton, who along with some of his fellow Republicans celebrated the Bush inauguration at a pool side bash at the Great Northern Inn that he called a "Goodbye Billery Party."
But celebrations do not obscure the fact that clouds are looming on the horizon that could tarnish a Republican silver lining.
"I think the economy is on the downturn and the Republicans are going to be getting the blame for it," he said.
Lotton predicts a Bush policy of sensible resource development and a tax cuts could help thwart an economic recession if the Democrats are willing to work with the Republicans for what he sees as "the good of the country."
"We need to take care of tax payers for a change instead of the tax users," he said. "I think he should keep on task and not back down from tax cuts."
Lotton said he also supports Bush's view that education reform - a top priority in the new administration - should include some kind of accountability, and vouchers for the parents of students in failing schools are an idea worth looking at.
"Why shouldn't poor children have the same option as as the children of those rich Democratic congressmen that oppose the idea," he said.
Lotton said he was pleased that Bush placed a moratorium on many of Clinton's last minute executive orders, including the one designating the Missouri River breaks as a national monument.
"All those things cost money and the breaks have been managed by landowners just fine for years," he said.
Lotton said he is optimistic that Montana's new governor is going to make some positive changes for Montana.
"I think she is more pro-business that Racicot," Lotton said. "I think they (the Democrats) are going to torture her a little bit, but courage is one of her strongest assets."
He said he's confident that Martz can take the heat without compromising her positions.
The rising price of energy is currently the hot button issue facing the Martz administration and the Montana Legislature. Lotton said he feels confident that Martz and the Republican dominated legislature is up to the challenge. But he said he is concerned that Republicans are going to be blamed for something he describes as not their fault.
"I want people to know that deregulation was federally mandated, but the Democrats want people to believe deregulation was a Republican idea," he said.
Lotton said his fear is that this could cause problems in future elections when Montanans start receiving utility bills that reflect the cost of buying power on the open market.
It is also a problem that Lotton said he feels could have been avoided if environmental groups had not created an anti-industry and anti-development mentality in western states that stifled or prohibited the construction of new power production facilities.
"If the environmentalists think we should use less energy," he said. "They should turn the lights and heat off, grab a blanket and go sleep under a tree so the rest of us can have more power."
Lotton said he is confident the energy problem will correct itself in the next four or five years.
"But it's going to take time," he said.