Gianforte Touts’ resilience reaffirms priorities in the first state
Greg Gianforte gave his first speech on the state on the Thursday evening before the 67th legislature in Montana. Gianforte continued to outline his election pledges to cut taxes, cut regulations and move the state forward in the face of the pandemic and blocked policies under previous Democratic governors.
Nicky Ouellet, Yellowstone Public Radio, host: Kevin, this was one of Gianforte’s first major addresses as governor. Set the scene for me.
Kevin Trevellyan, Yellowstone Public Radio, BYLINE: Governor Gianforte came into the chambers of the house masked and shook hands with the lawmakers as he walked down the aisle and then exposed himself to begin the speech. He got his first big standing ovation when talking about the pandemic. He said he asked President Biden to increase vaccine deliveries. While Governor Gianforte recognized the public health component of the pandemic, he also stressed the economic impact. He received much more applause when he talked about lifting the arbitrary restrictions on business capacity and hours of operation imposed by his Democratic predecessor.
Greg Gianforte SOUNDBITE: “Instead, we trusted entrepreneurs to follow industry best practices and public health guidelines rather than relying on the vast reach and heavy hand of government. “
Ouellet: Gianforte’s big theme of the night was the resilience that emerged from the pandemic. Under Steve Bullock, who had eight years of democratic control in the governor’s office, he set priorities in line with his Montana comeback plan. What was new there?
Trevellyan: Gianforte’s Montana comeback plan was sort of a guide to what he would do if elected to the governor’s office. A major focus of this document is on tax reform. These were included in the proposed budget that Governor Gianforte published in the speech in which he mentioned the need to lower the Montana income tax rate and promote an existing business equipment tax exemption. And he also spoke about the need to address property tax hikes. And his big point is that Montana is losing business opportunities and good jobs because of its tax laws.
Gianforte SOUNDBITE: “To get our economy going again, to open up Montana to trade, and to get Montanians back to work in well-paying jobs, we need to make Montana competitive.”
Trevellyan: Gianforte painted a rather terrible picture of Montana’s tax system during the speech. But it’s also worth noting that the charitable tax foundation found the state’s fifth-friendliest tax legislation in the country this year, also because we don’t have sales tax.
Shaylee Ragar, Montana Public Radio, BYLINE: I just want to jump in and tell you that Gianforte is outlining these tax cuts in his budget. And he said during the state that his budget is balanced. Legislative financial analysts have stated that its proposed budget would result in a deficit of $ 59 million for the state, meaning the state would spend more than it brings in. And that’s a negative structural balance of two percent. The Republican budget committee chairman said this was a little bit in relation to Gianforte’s budget director Kurt Alme. He also recognized that the proposal would create a deficit. But he says the state can generate new revenue to make up for that.
Ouellet: Gianforte also highlighted a number of bills that are pulling Republicans through the legislature.
Trevellyan: He mentioned his support for a few bills that are longstanding GOP priorities, and these include bills banning shelters and others that would restrict access to abortion. One of those bills would require health care providers to care for babies born after an attempted abortion and the other would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Gianforte SOUNDBITE: “These are necessary compassionate actions that we should all find common ground in. And I will legally sign both of them.”
Ouellet: Any olive branches on democratic priorities?
Trevellyan: He mentioned some of the bipartisan priorities currently running through lawmakers. One of them is to increase the pay for admitting teachers in Montana. He also spoke about tackling methane addiction and called Democratic Representative Sharon Stewart-Peregoy of the Crow Agency who is currently working on some bills to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people in Montana.
Ouellet: Livingston’s Democratic representative Laurie Bishop gave her party’s answer. How did she play out Gianforte’s address?
Ragar: We saw Bishop come out and be very critical of the Republicans. It should be noted that the Democrats lost heavily in the 2020 elections. Democrats lost 10 seats to Republicans. They lost the governor’s office and they lost every national office. And it seems that they are trying to rename their party’s priorities so that they focus on the economy and employment. Bishop was particularly critical of Republicans for focusing on social issues in the first month of the legislature.
Laurie Bishop SOUNDBITE: “After a long campaign season of jobs, the Republicans of Montana have left our economic recovery by the wayside. Instead, they have concentrated their efforts on attacking the freedoms of women and children in Montana.”
Ragar: Therefore, Bishop is referring here to laws that urge Republicans through legislation that would restrict access to abortion and prohibit transgender women from participating in interscholastic sports for women.
Ouellet: What do Democrats come to the table with to drive economic policy?
Ragar: Bischof spoke about empowering small businesses, protecting trade unions and workers’ rights, and promoting measures to expand the middle class, she said.