Republican gubernatorial hopeful Corey Stapleton of Billings has served with the US Navy, was first elected to the Montana Senate in 2000, and has worked as a financial advisor.
He said he likes what he’s hearing from the other G-O-P gubernatorial candidates about cutting property taxes. Because, he said it was his idea to begin with.
“What I’ve proposed, and a lot of the other candidates followed suit, if you backtrack to last year,” Stapleton said, “I came out and had proposed that we eliminate 95 mils, statewide in property tax which, for the average homeowner, is 25 percent of their value.”
Stapleton said he’s created a track record of leadership during his tenure in the State Senate.
“I was the person who put a stop to the Department of Revenue’s problems in the 2000’s when they had issues there. I was the person who said we should have a medical school in our state, led that issue in the Montana Senate. I’m the person that says we should eliminate mils and create a new way of funding our schools with new natural resource development,” Stapleton said this is what sets him apart from the other candidates, “not only do I bring the leadership, but I bring the ideas. And I have often found that if you don’t have the good ideas, nothing else really matters.”
Other taxes like the business equipment tax and corporate income tax are not part of Stapleton’s plan.
“What I would like to focus on singularly is the reduction in property tax, and not get wrapped around the axle in trying to do too many things, because, in my experience in the 8 years in the senate, you try to do too many things, and you’ll do nothing well,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton’s plan would back-fill revenue lost from eliminating the mils with money generated through natural resource development.
He differs from some of the other Republican candidates in saying the state’s existing tax and regulatory structure is good in general, but says things can improve.
In particular, he said the atmosphere in some of the regulatory boards can be changed, and he says just the threat of increased taxes can scare away new development.
Stapleton said the state can create a more business-friendly environment to encourage industry to invest in Montana natural resources.
“Wyoming dwarfs Montana’s coal production, Dakota dwarfs Montana’s oil production,” Stapleton said, “we can argue and squabble about the details around, but if you’re looking at outcomes, there’s no reason that Montana shouldn’t be a national leader in those.”
Stapleton said K-12 education and the state as a whole will benefit from cutting the mils and directing revenue generated from natural resource development into the budget.
He said he led an effort in the state legislature called “Handshake with Montana” in 2006 to decrease tuition costs using the state’s budget surplus.
Stapleton said he sees the education system in Montana as good, with room for improvement to make sure students and the state are being prepared to compete in a global market.
“I know there’s a lot of arguments sometimes about paying, how much we’re paying our professors for how much they work. That’s a common argument. But, I for one would like quality professors in our state, and we need to pay them what they deserve,” Stapleton said.
He said he believes the Obama Administrations Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and would cost the state too much. He’d rather see the private sector than the government drive healthcare, and see more Montana-raised tax dollars stay in the state.
On social issues Stapleton said he’s opposed to gay marriage and abortion, and supports the death penalty.