Over the past year, Montana has made strides in recovering its economy, combating substance use disorders and investing in infrastructure, Governor Greg Gianforte said Tuesday as it faces ongoing challenges from COVID-19, housing shortages and inflation.
Gianforte celebrated his first year in office with a state capitol press conference. The governor extolled policies and reforms that he believes will create a business-friendly environment in the state.
“With a great team, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work,” he said. “Our focus was and is to get our economy going, to change the way Helena does business and to protect the way we live in Montana. And we’ve made great strides. “
Last year began with Gianforte, the first Republican governor in 16 years, and a GOP-dominated legislature passing a series of new laws that revised tax policy, reshaped elections, restricted the power of the governor and public health, and the Expanding the place of carrying firearms and restricting access to abortion. Republican dominance allowed many bills that were previously vetoed by a Democratic governor to become law despite opposition from Democratic lawmakers.
People also read …
Gianforte said his policies aimed at four goals: growing the economy and creating more well-paying jobs; Fiscal responsibility; Emphasis on customer service in the state government; and “Protecting the Montana Way of Life,” including draft electoral reform bills, expansion of forest management, and firearms and abortion laws.
“Montana has not fully exploited our outstanding potential for too long. We’ve seen jobs and opportunities grow in other states while we haven’t, ”he said. “… I am full of enthusiasm, enthusiasm for Montana’s future. Together we have tapped the outstanding potential of Montana. “
The governor said his administration’s efforts to review the regulations are continuing, a process he called a “marathon, not a sprint”.
“We are committed to getting rid of that wet blanket and cutting red tape, reforming, rolling back and removing unnecessary and onerous regulations,” he said.
Gianforte, who said he received his COVID-19 booster, spent a significant portion of his speech addressing the pandemic, including encouraging Montans to get vaccinated. More than 2,900 residents had died of COVID-19, he noted.
“Your losses cannot be recorded in numbers, on a dashboard or on a television screen,” said the governor. “You are a family. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends and neighbors – their lives remind us all of the importance of getting vaccinated and the data shows it. “
Officials are learning about the variant of Omicron, which Gianforte said will cause a surge in Montana. He added that other states had also seen rapid declines after the surge. The high portability of the variant is a matter of concern, but the governor pointed out some evidence of less serious consequences such as hospitalization and the need for ventilators.
As Gianforte previously stated, he will not use his emergency powers to issue mandates related to COVID-19, citing Biden’s recent remarks: “There is no federal solution. That will be resolved at the state level. “
“Our way out of this virus does not result from federal mandates, but from people in communities across our country who exercise personal responsibility and sound judgment,” said Gianforte. In his first year in office, Gianforte made several changes to the previous democratic government in terms of how the pandemic was handled. This included lifting a nationwide mask mandate after lawmakers passed a COVID-19 liability law, and ending several executive orders and a state of emergency.
When asked about testing supplies and access to rapid COVID-19 tests, the governor said the state-backed tests have been released. The state has requested additional tests, he said, adding that “we think these are coming”.
Gianforte highlighted the billions in funding allocation from the American federal bailout bill, a bill he opposed and says he continues to oppose. He considers the measure to be “irresponsible for tax purposes”, citing inflation, but accused the state of being a “good administrator” of the money and prioritizing long-term projects.
Gianforte acknowledged that Montana is facing a real estate crisis where demand has exceeded supply. Pointing to staffing programs, he said, “We need the contract industry to build their capacity,” and said that some rules on the subdivisions could be tightened to encourage more development.
The labor shortage comes despite low unemployment and a record number of working coal and steel workers, although many also leave working life.
“There is still an urgent need for labor,” he said. “When we talk to the business world, the main problem is that we can’t find qualified people for the jobs.”
Eighteen of the laws Gianforte signed last year have been challenged in court, with most of the litigation still pending. One of the statutes ratified was a government-sponsored bill to change the way judges are appointed to vacant positions in the state. The Republicans supported the law, with Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras said the law would create more accountability. Democrats argued during the legislature that Gianforte could appoint people with political ties.
Gianforte was asked Tuesday about Andrew Breuner’s appointment as a judge in Gallatin County’s District Court last month. Gianforte Breuner, a Belgrade city judge and MSU professor, elected under the new state appointment law. Breuner’s work also includes serving on the boards of the Petra Academy, a private religious school founded by Gianforte, and Love in the Name of Christ, an organization that supports local churches and has also benefited from the Gianforte Family Foundation.
The governor defended the appointment.
“In the end, the decision is up to me,” he said. “I would say the personal relationship had nothing to do with it. He was the most qualified person and that’s why I chose him. “
Tom Kuglin is Associate Editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. His coverage is focused on the outdoors, recreation and natural resources.
Stay up to date on current local and national government and political issues with our newsletter.