Rick Hill: Destroyer Of Montana’s Fabulous Business Climate?

According to The Montana Democrats (fact-checked of course):

English: Rick Hill

Image via Wikipedia

A study recently released by the Tax Foundation found that Montana has the eighth-best business tax climate in the nation.  That top 10 status is due in large part to Montana’s lack of a sales tax, according to leading in-state business organization that bills itself as “the driving force in promoting a favorable business climate.

The eighth-best ranking is one that the Montana Chamber of Commerce says is something they’ll “promote the heck out of” when attracting companies to do business here, but that ranking that would be lost if Montana instituted former Congressman Rick Hill’s sales tax.

According to a story in Lee Newspapers
, Webb Brown, President of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, said the Tax Foundation gives a lot of credit in its rankings to states that don’t have certain major taxes, such as general sales taxes or individual income taxes.

“Not only would Congressman Hill’s tax-hike take money from the wallets of middle-class Montanans, it would make it harder to create jobs, allow Montana businesses to expand and attract businesses to invest here,” Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Ted Dick said.

As one of the leading contenders for the GOP nomination for Governor, insurance-executive Hill has been a strong supporter of a sales tax.  Hill was the lead lobbyist in the 1993 Montana Legislative Session to put a $400 million tax increase on the ballot – which is over $620 million in today’s dollars.  More recently, Congressman Hill has advocated  for a sales tax as a candidate for Governor.

Governor Schweitzer sees Montana’s standing as one of America’s best business tax climates only getting better, telling reporters that the several states ahead of Montana in the rankings may be looking to raise taxes because they lack the financial stability we enjoy.  Moreover, Montana has cut taxes, like the business equipment tax, this year – which will also play into future rankings.

That may all be lost if Hill is able to ram through his sales tax.

Hill Lobbied for $400 Million Sales Tax, $72 Million Income Tax
During the 1993 legislative session, Hill lobbied to pass two measures that would drastically increase taxes on Montanans.  The first measure was a bill to place a $400 million sales tax measure on the ballot.  It was rejected by the voters 75% to 25%.  Hill also lobbied on behalf of a bill that would have increased income taxes by $72 million, but was again rejected by voters. [Billings Gazette State Bureau, 5/23/1996]

Hill Still Supports a Sales Tax
INTERVIEWER: You would support a sales tax as a substitute tax, you would be open to that?

HILL: I would be open to it as a substitute tax. [Voices of Montana, 8/18/2011]

“A lot of people have advocated in Montana for a long time that we need three stools to our tax structure; got to have the income tax, the property tax, and the sales tax. I have often been an advocate for sales tax as a substitute.” [Hometown Helena, 6/2/2011]

“An Open Letter To Gay Republicans”

"The Third-Term Panic", by Thomas Na...

Image via Wikipedia

From Asher Huey at  The Huffington Post :

Dear gay Republicans,

Rick Santorum’s surge and near-win in Iowa should be a wake-up call: your party hates you.

Let’s put economic and other issues aside for a moment; we can have a spirited debate about the backward GOP approach to taxes, the environment, and foreign policy another time. I don’t understand how you can look beyond the fact that a major portion of your party’s fundamental beliefs are that you are not equal.

This isn’t a minor issue within your party. The Republican Party platform calls for amending the United States Constitution to discriminate against you. Party officials actually want to use our country’s foundational document, which grants and extends rights and freedoms to people, to limit yours. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

…Your party has, as one of its major leading presidential candidates, a person who doesn’t think you should be able to serve openly in the military, who doesn’t believe that you can create a loving family, who thinks that your committed relationships are destroying the moral fabric of America. Your party has thrown you in the deviant pile. Your party has labeled you a sexual predator. Your party is afraid of you and does not incorporate your voice or believe in your dignity.

Read the rest here. 

“Where Are You?”

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (album)

Trying to find Carmen Sandiego was at least fun and educational….

As Jon Tester continues his travels across the state, Montanans are wondering, “Where in the world is Congressman Dennis Rehberg?”

Rehberg’s last public event was two months ago, in Whitefish.  Since then, Rehberg has granted press interviews, but he has refused to meet publicly with the Montanans he’s supposed to serve.

Tester last week hosted two widely attended public forums to discuss online safety with executives from Facebook, and he held a public roundtable with the Billings Chamber of Commerce on the future of energy production in Montana.

Rehberg, however, had no public events.  In fact, Rehberg’s online schedule only lists one day last week, and that day consisted of only three press interviews.

“Following orders from his party bosses in Washington, Congressman Rehberg in December irresponsibly voted against tax relief for middle-class families and against the Keystone Pipeline,” said Ted Dick, Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party. “No wonder he’s hiding from the public.  After voting against Montana’s best interest, he doesn’t want to be held accountable to the Montanans he’s supposed to serve.  We call on Congressman Rehberg to end his vacation and get to work creating jobs.”

Against overwhelming public opinion to the contrary, Congressman Rehberg recently told the Bozeman Chronicle that the U.S. House was functioning well, despite his vote against extending a payroll tax holiday for the middle class families.

Congressman Rehberg might think playing political games with Keystone jobs and middle class tax cuts is business as usual for Congress, but he would hear something very different from Montanans, if he was willing to meet them face to face,” added Dick. “Thank goodness we have Jon Tester serving us in Congress, working hard every day on Montana’s behalf.”

Last year, Congressman Rehberg also abandoned public meetings after releasing his key appropriations bill weeks late and without public input.  The same day Rehberg was questioned by the press about his lack of public meetings, Congressman Rehberg scheduled two meetings.  Then he watched as a uniformed sheriff removed a Montanan from his event in Jordan.

After My Own Heart

A.J. Otjen, University of Montana Professor and 2010 GOP Congressional Candidate has an Op-Ed in the Missoulian that flies in the face of the arguments by Treasure State Politics about LGBT rights (see previous post) and takes on the Montana GOP’s Notorious Platform Plank:

Montana Republican Party

Image via Wikipedia

(The) Montana Supreme Court heard an appeal giving same-sex couples the protections that heterosexual couples enjoy. We should demand that our Republican leaders support this decision. But, the Montana Republican party platform says homosexual acts should remain illegal.

Apparently, the party that favors smaller, less intrusive government wants bigger, more intrusive government when it comes to our domestic arrangements. Three’s a crowd in the bedroom, folks.

Worse, the party line doesn’t fit with what most Republicans think. The latest Gallup poll says that 85 percent of Republicans want their candidates to focus on the economy, not social issues.

It will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win general elections if party leaders try to block the Supreme Court ruling or this troubling clause stays in the Republican state platform. Almost two-thirds of independents supported legalizing same-sex marriage in a 2010 Gallup poll.

Anecdotal evidence from online posts shows thousands of voters saying they would vote Republican except for the GOP’s rigid stance on gay issues.

Almost one-third of Republicans supported legalizing same-sex marriage in the 2010 Gallup poll. Over 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support legalizing same-sex marriage, up 16 percentage points from 2010. This “overwhelming” number in favor of marriage equality “makes the trend toward growing acceptance both clear and unstoppable,” says Jon Walker at Firedoglake. (emphases mine)

I am delighted and cautiously optimistic.

Of course I want her to be a bellwether, and having A.J. Otjen singing “The Times, They Are A-Changing” (with statistics) might be the wake-up call the Montana GOP needs. But will they hear it?

The Tea-Party Christianists seem to have a loud voice, if not large numbers- and the fact that this plank was “sneaked in” past the majority of delegates- as some maintain- doesn’t leave me with a helluva lot of faith in the process.

I want to believe it. I do. I like what she’s singin’, God bless her. It’s rational, reasonable, and backed by scientific data.

But I know a few people who’ll run to unplug the speakers as fast as they can. Especially because it’s rational, reasonable and backed by scientific data.


Stay tuned- and read the whole piece here.

Michele Bachmann, The NYT and Rehberg

Just a little reminder of the truth for ya…

Over the weekend, the New York Times had an interesting article about Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and the issue that catapulted her into the national spotlight: The gays are coming! They want to get married! Protect your children!

In March 2004, with Massachusetts soon to allow gay couples to wed, Michele Bachmann delivered a dire warning to her fellow Minnesotans: The children of their state were at risk.

“We will have immediate loss of civil liberties for five million Minnesotans,” Mrs. Bachmann, then a state senator, told a Christian television network as thousands gathered on the steps of the Capitol to rally for a same-sex marriage ban she proposed. “In our public schools, whether they want to or not, they’ll be forced to start teaching that same-sex marriage is equal, that it is normal and that children should try it.”

Anti-gay rhetoric. And the willful promulgation of ignorance. Seems like it’s pretty popular right now in some circles. Meanwhile, the American public is (mostly) not buying it. American acceptance of gay marriage is trending steadily upward, and only 32% of the people polled last October said gay marriage is a “very important issue” in their considerations at the ballot box- both for and against- so the number against is even less than that. The Pew Poll:

The economy and jobs overshadow other issues, including social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, in importance for voters. Fully 90% of registered voters say the economy will be very important to their vote while nearly as many (88%) rate jobs as very important.

By contrast, just 43% say abortion will be very important and just 32% say the same about same-sex marriage — the lowest percentage for 13 issues tested. Opponents of same-sex marriage (44% very important) are more likely than supporters (22%) to say that this issue will be very important to their vote.

Americans are increasingly seeing the anti-gay stance as bigoted and wrong- and rightly so. But it’s important to remember that Michele Bachmann- polling well in Montana– has her political roots firmly in this cesspool.

And what’s this got to do with Rehberg? Well, how about this reminder from January:

Billing Bachmann as a “possible presidential contender,” the Montana GOP announced Monday the third-term congresswoman would be one of the speaker’s at the state party’s annual fundraiser in Helena on Feb. 5.

Rep. Denny Rehberg, who is seriously weighing a bid for Senate, is also a listed speaker.

“Congresswoman Bachmann is a leading voice for conservative Republicans.  She is in great demand for speaking engagements throughout the country.  We are very fortunate Michele Bachmann will be our guest in Montana’s capital city and are grateful for Congressman Rehberg’s assistance in making this possible,” said Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee chairman Bridget Holland. (emphasis mine)

And well- of course. It makes sense. Rehberg has his own anti-gay history:

When you’re from Montana, it’s hard to find things to do — so practical jokes come in handy.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) recently played a gag on Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) on their Middle East congressional delegation trip last month.

Rehberg left an “Idaho Travel Package” on Simpson’s airplane seat.

Contents included a stuffed sheep with gloves attached to it (draw your own conclusions), a Village People CD, books on cross-dressing and sign language and a T-shirt that reads, “My senator may not be gay, but my governor is Butch.”

Rehberg is proud of the gift bag. “I spent a bit of time putting the things together,” he boasted.

(Simpson) was amused but not surprised that Rehberg was the bearer of such presents. “You can always find those materials in Montana,” he said, laughing.

After calls for an apology from a variety of quarters, none was given. An offhand statement was offered-from an office spokesman- saying, “No offense was intended.” Obviously, Rehberg doesn’t take the offense to his constituents seriously. He never has. Nor will he see the ridiculous “star” that he has hitched his wagon to- Michele Bachman- for what it really is: a willful attempt at fear-mongering, scientific ignorance and blatant pandering to an increasingly shrinking part of the American population.

It’s embarrassing. I just hope the people of Montana catch on soon, because I really don’t believe he represents the views of the majority of voting Montanans- Montanans believe in justice for all- not justice for some. and it’s easy to forget some very important things in light of repeated smokescreen rhetoric. But I believe we’re smarter than that.

So let’s vote like it.

HRC, GLAAD, Montana and Lady Gaga

Some clarifications about yesterday’s post– especially addressing the concerns and comments from the same post on LGBTQ Nation:

They do some great things, but HRC did not do its homework. The Montana GOP was first in it’s criminalization plank, back in the mid-90′s according to Bowen Greenwood on Brian Kahn’s Home Ground (Yellowstone Public Radio, Sept 2010). According to its press release, HRC thinks Montana copied Texas. The reality is that Texas either copied Montana or sadly, came up with it on its own.


GLAAD did not report on the this issue until September 20, 2010 when the Montana AP went national with this issue.


They knew about it in mid June 2010 , when the Montana 2010 GOP Plank was issued.

If Lady Gaga knew that Montana, Wyoming and Idaho were not on the radar of the national gay rights agenda, I wonder how fast the shit would hit the fan…. The fact is, there is a priority system in favor of numbers- not ideology, among the big gay rights organizations. And sexy publicity that makes noise and press gets the action- not oppressive legislation or codified bigotry affecting only a fraction of the population.

It’s not right. All persecuted human beings in the USA deserve equal support- even in the less populous states.

That’s all my post was supposed to say. That’s all I want- equal treatment for all by the equal rights organizations to which I belong. Not third-class citizenship based on where someone happens to be born, work or live.

I am a member of HRC. I have been for years. I am not ready to give up on them- or GLAAD, not yet- but I do want them to know that we are paying attention out here.

And, hopefully, you are, too.

Disturbed? Run For Office!

A friend recently drew my attention to some of the similarities between the recently announced KKK GOP Congressional candidate in Montana and some of the extremist members of the Republican Party in the Montana Legislature. I thought I’d share a few with you. So, just to catch you up:

John Abarr, a former organizer for the KKK, filed to run in the Republican primary for Montana’s congressional seat on May 25, 2011. (More info here: http://helenair.com/news/article_613dd194-8cdc-11e0-9dfc-001cc4c002e0.html)

Abarr’s ties to the KKK have been well documented. Of his affiliation with the Klan, he has said:

“It’s not any different than the NAACP,” he says. “The Klan is basically a civil rights organization that stands up for the rights of white people. The Montana Human Rights Network likes to blow everything out of proportion.”

Gotta love the logic. Republicans, such as gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill have tried to distance themselves from this guy.  However, after this legislative session in Montana, it’s hard to deny the fact that he is well within the extremist wing of the Republican party.

LGBT Issues

Abarr has also called for the deportation of gays, lesbians and Jewish people: http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/etc/Content?oid=1133942 And, as I’ve reported numerous times, the Montana Republican Party Platform calls for the re-criminalization of gay people in the state:

“We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.”

During the Legislative session, Republicans refused to remove language that had been ruled unconstitutional by both the state and federal supreme courts calling for the criminalization of gays and lesbians from Montana law. And they made  disgusting comments on the bill :

 Some Republicans even denied that the courts had struck down the statute


According to the Human Rights Network, Abarr sent a flier to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in 2007, urging Bozeman residents to stay inside to avoid contracting HIV during the Montana Pride Celebration. He claimed that HIV could be transmitted by air. 

During the most recent legislative session, Republican House Speaker Pro Tempe, Rep. Janna Taylor claimed people in prison were spreading HIV by blowdarts: http://www.youtube.com/watchv=igYKflAdzjo&feature=channel_video_title

Racial Minorities

Abarr said of his choice to move to Montana:

“I’ve pretty much decided since I spent some time in California that it (a pure white Christian nation) is just not gonna be. I mean there’s so many of them (racial minorities),” Abarr says, adding that in Montana it’s easier to achieve an all-white society.”

Republican Rep. James Knox introduced a bill that would redefine what a citizen of Montana is and essentially ignore the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. This bill would have likely removed citizenship from Native Americans and the children of immigrants in the state.

Convinced? I’ll bet there’s more if you look.

The key to redefining politics in this state is to redefine politicians. We effectively tied the hands of the most effective tool (building relationships) by enacting term limits. There is no longer any reason for any of our state legislators to cultivate relationships for the good of the people of the State of Montana- instead, people are just interested in ramming their own crazy-ass agendas through the legislative process.

Reason will only prevail when we elect reasonable people- people who are interested in communicating, are not threatened by differences and will work to guarantee a future in this state for all its people- not just a few…