Economy & Fiscal Responsibility

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.

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.

By signing the Montana Economic Development Industry Act (MEDIA) into law in 2019, Governor Bullock ensured Montana will continuously benefit from the ever-expanding media market by incentivizing film and television production in our state.

A 2019 report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Montana is a natural leader in outdoor recreation, coming in second in the nation for percentage of GDP (5.1%) tied to the outdoor recreation economy.

Under Governor Bullock’s leadership in April 2020, Montana successfully sold $33 million in bonds at a historically low interest rate of 1.56%. This sale will allow the state to begin construction projects as soon as it is safe to do, creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Good Jobs for all Montanans

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. In 2018, 857 people enrolled in an apprenticeship, a 102% increase since 2013; in 2019, eight new occupations were added to the program. By diversifying apprenticeships throughout Montana, Governor Bullock laid the groundwork to fill spaces in high-needs fields, like health- and childcare, which will ultimately benefit all Montanans.

By expanding Medicaid in 2015 and reauthorizing that expansion in 2019, Governor Bullock sustained thousands of jobs and pumped millions of dollars into the state’s economy. 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.

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. 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 released the Montana Renewables Development Action Plan in 2018, outlining actions necessary to remove barriers to the development and export of Montana renewable resources. This plan for energy development will create good-paying jobs and economic opportunity for Montanans.

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.

The sale of $33 million in bond issuance for infrastructure projects in April 2020 will create an estimated $412 jobs and more than $20.5 million in wages. 

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. He continues to champion measures to increase transparency in elections.

As Governor of Montana, he proposed and passed legislation in 2019 to ban spending and contributions in Montana elections by foreign governments, foreign corporations, and foreign nationals. In 2015, he led a bipartisan crackdown on dark money, working with 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, and won, over their decision to abandon disclosure requirements for major donors to dark money groups. 

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.

Quality Public Education for All Montana Students

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.

Montana now invests over $175 million more each year in K-12 BASE Aid than when Governor Bullock first took office in 2013. At a time when most states suffered a decline in investment, Montana made record investments in higher education; it is one of ten states spending more per student on higher education since the recession.

Governor Bullock built on the success of dual enrollment programs 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. In the first year, students and families saved over $7.2 million in tuition costs, and students from more than 150 schools in Montana took some form of dual enrollment, leading to a 25% boost in the number of credits taken. Nearly 8,000 students participated in dual enrollment during the 2018-2019 school year, more than doubling since 2014.

To ensure Montana students can succeed with post-secondary education, Governor Bullock also froze college tuition for six of the last eight years, leading to Montana having some of the lowest public university tuition and fees in the nation. He also restored funding for need-based financial aid, extending the program to include returning adult learners and STEM scholarships.

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, 100% 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.

Governor Bullock knows that Montana’s kids must have all their needs met to be successful learners. First Lady Lisa Bullock and Governor Bullock prioritized increasing access to school breakfast through their Breakfast After the Bell initiative. Since 2014, over 61% of food insecure students have gained access to breakfast and lunch, and Breakfast After the Bell has expanded to well over 300 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. Childhood hunger does not take a break for the summer, and under Governor Bullock’s leadership the Montana Summer Food Service Program had its most successful year, serving over 700,000 meals in 2018 – an 11% increase since the prior summer. Thanks to these efforts, Montana went from 1 in 5 students being food insecure to 1 in 6.

In his budget to the 2019 Montana Legislature, Governor Bullock passed the first known investment in HiSet testing for Tribal Colleges, allocating $350,000 to help Native American students succeed. Each Montana Tribal College will receive $25,000 each year of the biennium to support tribal students and limit barriers for those interested in taking the test.

Affordable and Accessible Health Care

In 2019, Governor Bullock signed into law a sweeping package of health care bills, including the reauthorization of Medicaid expansion, three bills aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, and legislation to increase access to medical, mental health, and substance use treatments. With this legislation package, Governor Bullock enabled tribal communities to license and use community health workers in Indian Health Service facilities to improve access to care. Governor Bullock also passed and received federal approval of a reinsurance waiver to lower healthcare premiums by 9%, saving Montanans and estimated $31.3 million.

Medicaid expansion preserves access to physical and mental health care for nearly 1 in 10 Montanans including nearly 15,000 American Indians and 10,000 veterans and their families. Governor Bullock knows Montanans must be able to receive care in their own communities, especially in rural areas; Medicaid expansion is a lifeline for rural hospitals and health clinics. Governor Bullock also improved Medicaid, adding autism coverage for all Medicaid eligible children in Montana.

By establishing Big Sky Care Connect as the statewide health information exchange, Governor Bullock gave providers access to real-time patient data to improve quality of care while reducing healthcare costs.

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. During his tenure as Governor, he has invested $3.5 million in legislative and federal funds in suicide prevention efforts for all Montanans, including veterans, Native Americans, and youth.

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. He also added substance abuse peer support as a Medicaid-covered service. In 2017, Governor Bullock signed the Help Save Lives from Overdose Act into law, which issued a standing order authorizing opioid antagonists. He has fought to increase access to licensed behavioral health professionals throughout the state, especially in rural and tribal communities, including through the use of innovative telehealth technology.

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.

Governor Bullock implemented the MOMS program and Meadowlark Initiative to bring more obstetric training to rural communities, expand and improve prenatal and postpartum mental healthcare, and relieve a shortage of providers in maternal healthcare. 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. In 2019, he passed the first comprehensive statewide bond package in over a decade; this package includes funding for sewer, water, bridges, buildings and other public work projects. These bonds were sold in April 2020 at a historically low interest rate of 1.56%, and the projects will begin as soon as it is safe to do so.

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. During his tenure as Governor, he secured an additional 118,000 acres of conservation through Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks-affiliated projects. He also collaborated with federal and nonprofit partners as well as private landowners on contributions to Montana’s Wildlife Management Areas and conservation easements, safeguarding wildlife habitat while honoring that working lands must stay in production.

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. By restoring funding to the successful Habitat Montana program, Governor Bullock protects and enhances wildlife habitat across the state while supporting conservation-minded ranchers and farmers.

Outdoor recreation is important to Montanans and the state economy. Under Governor Bullock’s leadership, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks created the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which will provide the state with a five-year strategic framework for identifying trends, issues, and challenges facing the state’s outdoor recreation and natural resources and offer recommendations for outdoor recreation priorities.

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. The Office of Outdoor Recreation has taken a leadership role in establishing a coordinated, nationwide outdoor recreation effort through the National Governor’s Association. 

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. Governor Bullock established the Montana Climate Solutions Council in July 2019 to identify made-in-Montana solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the state for climate impacts, and address the needs of communities in transition through appropriate economic development and workforce strategies. Governor Bullock has also prepared Montana through other efforts 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.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Governor Bullock consistently advocates for all Montanans receiving 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 fifty 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.

Governor Bullock knows that fair compensation involves more than wages. He is working to modernize state leave policies to ensure gender equity, and actively identifying opportunities to take action on paid family leave policies for all Montanans. 

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. He also 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.

Montana’s service men and women face numerous challenges, and Governor Bullock recognizes it is his role to ensure they receive professional support and care. He spearheaded the investment of $3.5 million legislative and federal dollars into suicide prevention work, including many programs that directly assist veterans.

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. He also froze tuition for members and veterans of the Montana National Guard so that they can access the education necessary to enhance or change their careers. 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. In 2019, he created the Eastern Montana Elder Justice Council to combat crimes against Montana’s seniors. Governor Bullock also continues to support the CARE Act, designed to help caregivers receive the adequate information and training they need to be successful.