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Hill vows to reform business regulations


Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

Republican Montana governor candidate Rick Hill talks about education during an interview Wednesday morning.

Montana has a reputation as a business-unfriendly state where people have to wait in long lines, fill out mounds of paperwork and wait for months before getting approval to open businesses and create jobs.

That's the opinion of Rick Hill, the former U. S. congressman who is running for governor. Hill faces nine candidates in the June Republican primary. Hill has raised more money than his foes, he is leading in the polls, and public opinion surveys show him doing the best against the front-running Democratic candidate, Attorney General Steve Bullock.

Hill was campaigning in Havre last week.

He said he has broader experience than his opponents, having served in the executive and legislative branches of government and being a lawyer.

Hill said several national ratings have listed Montana in the bottom 10 of the 50 states when it comes to being welcoming to business.

There are several reasons, he said, but cumbersome regulations are at the top of the list.

For the most part, he said, the problems lies in the fact that there is an adversary system between regulators and potential businesses. Bureaucrats have been trained in being adversarial to business.

When businesses try to come into the state, the attitude of regulators should be "let's make this work," he said.

"We should work together to resolve issues, not to be confrontational," Hill said in a Havre Daily News interview.

Rules could be made easier to abide by without endangering the state's environment, he said.

"I came to Montana because I love the outdoors," he said.

Education reform is a key part of his platform, he said.

"By almost every measure, we are losing ground to other countries," he said.

In Montana, 20 percent of the students don't graduate from high school, and 30 percent who do, need remedial help in college, he said.

One problem in Montana, he said, is that local schools are "micromanaged by OPI," he said of the Office of Public Instruction, headed by Democrat Denise Juneau.

He said teacher tenure should be eliminated and the pay system should be based on merit.

He said administrators can fire tenured teachers, he said, but it often costs districts lots of time and up to $100,000 to do so.

"Some kids will never recover from having a poor teacher," he said.

He has talked to many administrators and teachers, and he finds little opposition to his stand on tenure.

"Maybe the unions object," he said. "But not that many teachers."

In higher education, he said, he would appoint regents who share his vision of what the Montana University System should be.

He said costs have risen higher than inflation, which means tuition will have to go up.

He called for accountability for university administrators, noting that large numbers of students fail to graduate within five years.

At the same time, he praised staff and students at Montana State University-Northern, saying the college has served the Hi-Line well.

On another subject, he was critical of Bullock for failing to file a lawsuit seeking to block implementation of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

He said the legislation is unconstitutional and will bankrupt Montana.

He said Bullock had asked for public in put on whether he should join the suit filed by 26 other state attorneys general.

"But then the next day, after getting his marching orders from Washington, he decided not to sue."

"This is something I agree with the governor on," he said, adding that he rarely sided with Democrat Brian Schweitzer. "It's going to bankrupt the state."

He quickly added, though, that he did not agree with Scwheitzer's proposal to create a single-payer system.

Born: Dec. 30, 1946, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Graduated: St. Cloud University in 1968.

Political experience: Served in various political roles and on state boards under Gov. Marc Raciot's administration. He was elected to Congress in 1996. While he was in Congress, he voted with the majority of his Republican colleagues about 90 percent of the time, the Washington Post reported. He didn't seek re-election in 2000 citing a problems with his eyes, a problem that has since been taken care of.

Future: In 2011, he announced his candidacy for governor, hoping to succeed Democrat Brian Schweitzer, who is barred from running for re-election because of term limits.


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