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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Bullock and Gianforte Talk Tourism, Taxes

Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association
Courtesy of Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association
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  The main party candidates for governor made their pitch to members of the state’s tourism industry this week during a conference of the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association.

Republican Greg Gianforte and incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock repeated their by-now familiar campaign phrases while expressing gratitude for the work done by members of Montana’s tourism industry.

Bullock told the crowd gathered at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, near Anaconda, that as someone who grew up in Montana, he knows the value of the land here and the asset it is in bringing visitors into the state.

“I love the outdoors. I love that any of us can track into the millions of acres of public lands," Bullock said. 

"We can do so with our hiking boots, we can do so with a fly rod, we can do so with a gun, and we don’t need special permission to do that," he added in a barb aimed at Gianforte, who Bullock accuses of trying to deny public fishing access across his property in Bozeman.

"It’s one of the reasons that I’ve proposed for next legislative session, to put together in the governor’s office of economic development, an office of outdoor recreation," Bullock said,  "to build on these economic opportunities that we already have and that we already know and to promote it as one of the key pillars of our overall economy."

Republican Greg Gianforte says it was through Montana’s tourism industry that he first came to the state more than 40 years ago. He says if elected he will help the private sector create more jobs.

“My commitment is that when I am governor, we will round up all the excessive regulations and put them out to pasture," Gianforte said.

"So what are these things? Its workman’s comp rates, it’s the cost of healthcare, it’s the paperwork associated with having employees," he continued. "And we need rules, we need rules to protect public safety, and we need rules to preserve our liberties. But we’ve got rules on top of rules. So, we’ve got to make it easier for small business.

"I think part of that in Montana, I am a proponent of responsible natural resource development," Gianforte said, continuing his attack on Bullock as being unsympathetic to Montana's traditional resource extraction industries. "We’ve seen a lot of federal overreach. But we need to protect the environment that is the heart of the tourism industry. But we can preserve the environment and develop resources as well,” he said.

With some recent talk about changing the state’s bed tax rate, members of the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association wanted to know where the gubernatorial candidates stand on that issue. Hotels pay the bed tax into the state general fund and to promote Montana’s tourism industries. Both Gianforte and Bullock said they would not change Montana’s current bed tax rate.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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