G-O-P gubernatorial candidate Jim O’Hara says natural resource development and pursuing renewable resource opportunities in Montana will also open up economic opportunities.
“I’ve run a non-traditional campaign; I haven’t been focused on fundraising. I haven’t been asking Montanans for their money, I have been asking Montanans for their ideas, their thoughts,” O’Hara said.
He’s been traveling the state making billboards featuring the areas local county courthouse and the words “Jim O’Hara, Governor”.
“The courthouses belong to the people, and our government belongs to the people, and I think we all have to remember that, and a courthouse is a symbol of that concept,” O’Hara said.
He says that’s also how he’d run the state as governor, by finding original and creative ways to get things done without breaking the bank.
O’Hara is wrapping up the end of his second term as a Chouteau County Commissioner, has been farming all his life, and he and his wife have owned and operated a Great Falls coffee shop since the late 19-90’s. O’Hara echoes what other G-O-P candidates have said about developing the state’s natural resources as a way for job creation and economic development. He adds wind energy and renewable resources as good avenues for the state to explore.
“I think energy is a big thing going forward, and I’m, I’ve worked with some wind companies over the years, and I’m kind of a big proponent of wind as a County Commissioner. That’s the one asset we have in the rural counties, in Chouteau County we really don’t have a large oil and gas base, but we do have a lot of wind,” O’Hara said as a County Commissioner he’s seen how wind farms can create jobs building the infrastructure, and how once built the wind farms augment the tax base.
He says the governor can create a business-friendly environment through the regulatory process, and that the governor’s role is to be an ambassador for industry and to push legislation encouraging business investment.
O’Hara favors tax breaks for any business that adds value to agriculture or other value-adding industry so more raw materials are staying in the state for processing, “we need to refine, manufacture, add value to our production here before it leaves the state. Whether it be cutting, you know, meat packing plant,” O’Hara said, “milling flour out of wheat, or malt barley, whatever capacity we can add value to our production.”
He supports cutting the business equipment tax, but he finds fault with other G-O-P candidate’s goals of cutting property taxes.
“Being in local government, that’s our primary source of revenue. And I don’t really know that it’s realistic to cut property taxes, short term, I think that’s one tax that may not be on the chopping block just because local governments are so strapped,” O’Hara said he can see cutting property taxes and bridging the funding gap with revenue from natural resource development as a possibility for the long term, but not the short term.
O’Hara says he’d like to see tuition remain where it is for higher education in the state, and would like to see Universities generating revenue from their research and studies.
“An example would be MSU – Northern that has developed a jet fuel from, actually from pine beetle killed trees and canola, both of them Montana products- and again that comes back to value added – but they have a technology that they can patent, they can sell, it was developed at the University, and I think that’s one way to offset some of the costs,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara said he’ll work toward tort reform and a loser-pay system that can curtail frivolous lawsuits he describes as a block to economic development, and a key element in what drives up health care costs. He advocates simplifying the tax code with a flat state income tax.
On social issues O’Hara says he’s pro-life, and does not believe the state needs a constitutional amendment to allow gay marriage, but says the state Constitution guarantees equal rights for all law abiding citizens.