Issues

Strong Economy & Fiscal Responsibility

Montana continues to experience steady economic growth, benefitting businesses and workers alike. More folks are working than ever before in our state’s history, wages are on the rise, and efforts continue to give employers the talented and trained workforce they need to expand their business.

Under Governor Bullock’s leadership, families across Montana continue to climb the ladder of opportunity. Montana’s middle-class has experienced the largest growth of any state. They’ve benefitted from the 4th fastest wage growth in the country over the last decade, with every single region of the state seeing wage gains. The average household income grew at a rate of 4.7% from 2016 to 2017, at nearly 2.5 times the national average and at the fastest rate in the country.

Governor Bullock cut the business equipment tax for every Montana business, and eliminated it for 2/3 of the businesses operating in the state. Over 15,000 small businesses have expanded their footprint through economic development tools during Governor Bullock’s tenure. These economic gains have extended into Montana’s Native American reservations, through the Indian Equity Fund, which has funded nearly 120 businesses and retained 220 jobs in the last six years. 

A strong economy requires collaboration between public and private sectors. That’s why Governor Bullock launched Main Street Montana Project in 2013, in an unprecedented partnership between the state government and private sectors to remove barriers to economic growth. The Main Street Montana Project 2.0 – Rural Partners Initiative – is currently focused on bringing economic opportunity to rural communities through partnerships.

In 2018, Governor Bullock signed into law the Working Montana Families Tax Credit, which will help hard-working Montana families get ahead through an additional tax credit that will be provided to low- and moderate-income workers of up to 3% of the federal earned income tax credit.

Governor Bullock knows it’s impossible to have a truly strong economy without exercising fiscal responsibility. Under the Governor’s leadership, the state pension system was fixed at no cost to taxpayers. Governor Bullock spearheaded putting the state’s checkbook online, contributing to transparency and accountability in government.

Good Jobs for all Montanans

Since Governor Bullock first took office in 2013, Montana’s unemployment rate has lowered to its smallest rate in a decade and is currently at 3.9%. More people are working than ever before in the state’s history, and Montana has added 34,000 private sector jobs alone since January 2013. The average Montana worker takes home $108 more dollars each week than they did six years ago.

Governor Bullock’s Forest in Focus program has retained over 3,000 jobs and counting in the forest products sector. Montana’s outdoor economy sustains 71,000 jobs. 

Governor Bullock is also a strong advocate of apprenticeship programs, having worked with the 2017 Montana Legislature to bolster apprenticeship opportunities by providing a new tax incentive for Montana businesses to offer on-the-job training to Montanans and veterans.
Montana has the only-known-in-the-nation Montana Tribal College Apprenticeship initiative, which integrates apprenticeships with post-secondary coursework at five of Montana’s tribal colleges. These apprenticeships provide students on-the-job training and college credit and connect students to jobs in a variety of sectors with certifications. Montana has grown apprenticeships by nearly 30% since 2013.

Through Montana’s Medicaid expansion, the HELP-Link program increases labor force participation and offers those receiving healthcare through the expansion to improve their lives and employment by connecting with the state’s Department of Labor. Medicaid expansion alone creates between 5,900 and 7,500 jobs across the state in the healthcare industry and others.  
In his role as Chairman of the National Governor’s Association, Governor Bullock has spearheaded “Good Jobs for all Americans,” a national initiative to ensure access to good jobs for all workers.

He also established the Future Ready Montana Cabinet to further align Montana’s education and workforce initiatives between public and private sectors to help ensure Montana reaches a goal of increasing the percentage of Montanans with a college degree, certificate or industry-recognized credential to 60% by 2025.

Campaign Finance Reform

Governor Bullock has been called “the biggest threat to Citizens United,” and has spent his career fighting to keep dark money out of politics. As Governor of Montana, he continues to champion measures to increase transparency in elections, leading a bipartisan crackdown of dark money in Montana.

In 2015, Governor Bullock worked with Democrats and Republicans in the Montana Legislature to pass the Montana DISCLOSE Act, one of the strongest campaign finance disclosure laws in the nation. Any group spending money or resources intended to influence an election within 60 days of when voting begins must disclose how they are spending that money and its source.

In 2018, Governor Bullock issued a first-in-the-nation dark money executive order requiring government contractors to disclose secret spending. Governor Bullock also sued the IRS and the US Department of Treasury over their decision to abandon disclosure requirements for major donors to dark money groups. The State of New Jersey has joined the lawsuit and it is currently pending in federal district court.

As Attorney General, Governor Bullock personally defended Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act of 1912 after the Citizens United decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a case dating back to Governor Bullock’s time as Attorney General, the U.S. Supreme Court recently left in place Montana’s campaign contribution limits, which are among the lowest in the nation. The U.S. Supreme Court also recently left in place Montana’s DISCLOSE Act.

Education: from Pre-K to Higher Ed

Governor Bullock believes public education is our great equalizer and is committed to ensuring that all Montana students, from preschool to higher ed, have the educational opportunities to succeed in today’s economy and in the future.

Under Governor Bullock’s leadership, Montana secured the first-ever state investment in early childhood education. In the first year of the STARS Preschool pilot program, 93% of the participating preschoolers ended their year ready for kindergarten. Governor Bullock also secured a federal Montana Preschool Development Grant to expand the availability of high-quality preschool in Montana.

Investment in public education has increased since 2012, with record investments made in Montana’s K-12 public school system. At a time when most states suffered a decline in investment, Montana made record investments in higher education. Governor Bullock also froze college tuition for four of the last six years, leading to Montana having the fourth lowest public university tuition and fees in the nation.

More than 6,000 high school students are now able to take advantage of taking college classes through dual enrollment, saving Montana families $5 million in tuition every year, up 3,500 from 2013. Governor Bullock built on this success by launching the “1-2-Free” Dual Enrollment program in 2018, allowing high school students to take their first two college classes entirely for free.

Governor Bullock created a state matching program to leverage broadband funds to help schools upgrade their broadband infrastructure, teaming up with EducationSuperHighway to help school districts make significant upgrades to high-speed broadband. Under Bullock’s leadership, 98% of Montana school districts are now connected to high-speed internet, up from just 78% in 2015 and at half the average cost to school districts.

Alongside First Lady Lisa Bullock, Governor Bullock has made increasing access to school breakfast a priority through their Breakfast After the Bell initiative. Since 2013, over 33% more income eligible students are getting school breakfast, and Breakfast After the Bell has expanded to well over 100 new schools thanks to financial support from the private sector. From the 2017-2018 school year, Montana had the largest increase in the nation in school breakfast participation.

Affordable and Accessible Health Care

Under Governor Bullock’s leadership, Montana expanded access to Medicaid in 2015, providing nearly 100,000 Montanans with access to healthcare and creating the lowest uninsured rate in state history at below 8%, down from 20% in 2013.

Governor Bullock has made record investments in community mental health care. Montana invests over $135 million per year in community-based mental health and substance use treatment, an increase of $60 million from 2013. These services also serve an additional 14,000 adults, children, and people with disabilities every year. As of 2019, over 33,000 Montanans have received mental health services from Medicaid expansion.

From 2013 to 2019, the state of Montana has nearly doubled the number of Substance Use Treatment providers, while expanding access to 135 locations across the state. In 2017, Governor Bullock signed the Help Save Lives from Overdose Act into law, which issued a standing order authorizing opioid antagonists.

In 2017, Governor Bullock presided over an investment of $1 million to assist with youth suicide prevention efforts, targeted at providing schools, tribes, tribal and urban health care providers, and organizations with community prevention grants.

Governor Bullock led the way in instituting reference-based pricing through the State of Montana health plan, making medical costs more predictable, consistent, and comparable across facilities. As a result, taxpayers have saved over $13 million in state health plan costs in less than two years.

All Montanans can now count on receiving equal treatment under their healthcare plans for mental health as they do for physical health, after Governor Bullock signed the Montana Mental Health Parity Act into law in 2017. Governor Bullock also worked with public and private partners to advance more integrated behavioral and physical health with the first ECHO-enhanced collaborative care project in the nation, giving 16 primary care practices access to a behavioral health team of experts.

A defender of reproductive rights, Governor Bullock made permanent Title X funding for women’s health in the state’s budget.

Net Neutrality

Following the FCC’s decision to repeal open internet rules last month, Governor Bullock signed a first of its kind Executive Order to protect net neutrality, making Montana the first state to protect internet freedom.

The order states that to receive a contract with the government of Montana, internet service providers must not engage in blocking or throttling web content or create internet fast lanes, all practices which were banned through an Obama-era net neutrality order in 2015. As one of the biggest consumers of internet services in the state, the order made clear the State of Montana’s choice of net neutrality.

Providing a publicly-accessible template of his own Executive Order, the Governor called on other states to join Montana in protecting internet freedom. To date, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Hawaii have utilized Governor Bullock’s template to protect net neutrality in their states.  

Critical Infrastructure

Governor Bullock recognizes that making sustainable investments in critical infrastructure and putting shovels in the ground is essential to our continued economic growth and to the creation and support of good-paying jobs for Montanans.

Under Governor Bullock’s tenure during the 2013-2017 legislative sessions, $232 million has been invested in local communities across the state to make infrastructure upgrades to drinking water, wastewater and sewer systems, solid waste disposal, schools and bridges. Over $60 million has been invested in infrastructure upgrades for the Montana University System, including for the construction of Missoula College and the Automotive Technology Center at MSU-Northern. All 56 counties of Montana have benefitted from these infrastructure investments.

In 2017, Governor Bullock gained bipartisan support and signed into law the Bridge and Road Safety and Accountability Act which has provided an additional $153 million to date in both state and federal funds to help fix Montana’s roads and bridges.

Each legislative session, Governor Bullock has proposed a comprehensive infrastructure package financed through a responsible mix of cash and bonds to support investments in local communities and throughout the state.

Public Lands and Outdoor Recreation

Governor Bullock fights to preserve and expand access to public lands across Montana and will always ensure that public lands stay in public hands.

Working alongside sportsmen groups and landowners, Governor Bullock created the Montana Public Land Access Network (MT-PLAN) to increase access to public lands by pursuing public access easements and completing projects that enhance existing public access sites in Montana. Additionally, Governor Bullock created a Public Access Specialist position within his administration to troubleshoot specific issues preventing full public access to public lands.

Governor Bullock established initiative Parks in Focus in order to ensure our state parks can keep pace with growing number of visitors and are protected for generations to come. He also established the Forests in Focus initiative to encourage healthy forests and fuel reductions. Alongside other Western Governors, Bullock led a multi-state effort to ensure effective management of the Greater Sage Grouse.

Bullock’s administration formally created the Office of Outdoor Recreation to support growth in the industry, enable the industry’s success, and ensure that the state’s recreation resources continue to thrive and provide opportunity for current and future generations. Outdoor recreation in Montana generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending annually, supports 71,000 jobs with $2.2 billion in wages, and contributes $286 million in state and local tax revenue.

Responsible Energy Future

Under the Governor Bullock’s leadership, Montana adopted the “Blueprint for Montana’s Energy Future” in 2016. Written with input from wind energy developers, energy efficiency advocates, small businesses, coal workers, and solar installers, the Governor’s Energy Blueprint establishes goals across energy sectors to improve the traditional base of energy generation while sparking a new generation of clean technology business, moving Montana toward more renewable energy, and encouraging innovation, savings, and energy efficiency for homes and for businesses. Through his Energy Blueprint, he has helped to quadruple the state’s installed solar capacity and convened a collaborative effort to address transmission barriers to expanded wind production with the Bonneville Power Administration and West Coast energy providers.

Governor Bullock has advanced efforts to better prepare Montanans for climate impacts, ranging from improving long-term drought resilience for Montana’s farmer and ranchers through the Governor’s Drought & Water Supply Advisory Committee, to advancing forest restoration to reduce wildfire threats through his Forests in Focus 2.0 initiative and work at the Western Governors Association.

Throughout his tenure, Governor Bullock has expanded incentives for renewable power, including the opportunities for job creation associated with Montana’s legacy of hydroelectric power. After legislative efforts were levied to unravel this job creating law, Governor Bullock successfully protected Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. 

His administration has pursued opportunities for new technologies to allow Montana’s coal plants to generate energy with less pollution, as well as lowering tax rates for new pollution control equipment, providing tax incentives for EOR, and carbon-capture and sequestration, and supporting legislation that recognized the incidental carbon storage associated with EOR.

Bullock has maintained a record of holding corporate polluters accountable, negotiating a cleanup of the Butte Hill Superfund site between the EPA, Atlantic Richfield, the state, and Butte-Silver Bow and suing to implement Montana’s bad actor provisions.

In 2014, Governor Bullock launched the SMART Schools program, a voluntary competition between Montana K-12 schools that focuses on resource efficiency and environmental health of the school. Since its founding, 107 schools have taken part, resulting in $273,000 in energy cost savings.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Governor Bullock has consistently advocated that all Montanans deserve a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

He established the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force, setting a goal to make Montana the first state to achieve gender pay equity, and spearheaded several “lead by example” efforts to promote equal pay practices within his administration. This included the first-ever pay audit of state departments, and an Executive Order which incentivizes businesses that contract with the state to engage in best practices regarding equal pay issues, including encouraging contractors to post salary ranges in employment listings and discouraging contractors from talking about wage history in employee interviews or retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose their wages in the workplace.

Bullock’s administration also created the Equal Pay Hotline (1-844-559-FAIR), which provides intake and addresses complaints regarding equal pay, sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and marital or pregnancy status. Staffed by the Montana Human Right Bureau through the Department of Labor & Industry, the hotline gives all Montanans an anonymous opportunity to report workplace discrimination.

Alongside the Equal Pay Task Force, Governor Bullock created a statewide awareness campaign to educate communities across the state about equal pay, visiting communities around the state to highlight actions taken to advance equal pay in Montana. More than 50 Montana businesses, organizations, and individuals have pledged to commit to Equal Pay as a result of this campaign, and these business leaders are an integral part of recruiting other organizations and businesses to work with Governor Bullock and the Equal Pay Task Force to close the wage gap in Montana.

In 2019, the Montana Paycheck Transparency Act passed out of House Committee, marking the first time an equal pay bill has made it out of committee while Governor Bullock has been in office. The bill addresses gender wage inequality by allowing greater wage transparency and prevent Montana employers from seeking or discussing information regarding past wages, benefits, or other salary history as a condition of employment or application for employment.

Seniors and Veterans

Governor Bullock believes that protecting our nation’s veterans is one of his most important roles as Commander in Chief of the Montana National Guard. Since becoming Governor, Bullock has consistently expanded funding and programs for veterans, working to expand economic, health, and educational opportunities to honor their service.

Governor Bullock launched HELP-Vets, a targeted outreach effort to ensure veterans are able to receive expanded access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion. Up to 7,000 veterans to date have received healthcare from this initiative.

In 2016, Governor Bullock extended the Montana State Employee Assistance Program to every veteran in the state, delivering a set of no-cost health services to Montana’s veterans and National Guardsmen and women.

Working with Montana’s University System, Governor Bullock ensured veterans have the opportunity to get academic credit for the skills learned in their service and provided funding for wrap-around services at Montana colleges and universities to support veterans’ transition back to civilian life. Governor Bullock expanded services available through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to veterans who have struggled with long-term unemployment to help them secure a financial livelihood. Governor Bullock also secured legislation in 2017 to encourage Montana businesses to hire and train veterans through an apprenticeship tax credit.

Governor Bullock has also supported Montana’s seniors, advocating services that help seniors stay in their homes, saving the state money by delaying or avoiding nursing home care while ensuring seniors can stay where they are most comfortable. Governor Bullock has also championed state support for the over 100,000 Montanans who are helping to care for adult family members or friends through the Lifespan Respite Program. Governor Bullock also continues to support the CARE Act, designed to help caregivers receive the adequate information and training they need to be successful.