Coverage began early with PBS. Former Secretary of State Bob Brown was there, as well as political scientist Franke Wilmer. After that Bullock came in. Ellie Hill got a hug, Mike McGrath got a handshake, someone got a kiss, I didn’t see who, probably his wife. The House Speaker and Senate President stood by to make sure everything went according to protocol.
All the important people were up front, including Secretary of State in the front row with a red dress. I have to admit when I first saw Debbie Barrett ensemble I was confused as to whether it was a curtain or a cardigan.
Bullock told us he’d focus on the people of the state, not the politics that divides us, and then the applause line was said and we were underway. Republicans were not impressed.
Over 12,000 jobs create last year alone, Bullock mentioned. Hundreds of jobs restoring forests and watersheds got applause, as did helping emerging small businesses create jobs, a classic line that’s hard to pin any meaning to.
There was some uncanny and unexpected humor a few minutes in, and I was quite impressed. Republicans were not impressed by the idea of solar panels on roofs, which was mentioned next.
Boy, he was on fire at the beginning of that speech and kept it up!
We’ve made government more effective and efficient by challenging expenses and modernizing, he mentions. We no longer have billions in unfunded retirements, shored up pensions without raising taxes or jeopardizing the future of public servants. That got a big applause.
Mainstreets for Montana was mentioned again, and hopefully we can get some more going on that. With 714 rules and regulations being streamlined or just eliminated, then this should be possible.
Over 2,000 students enrolled in college classes while still in high school, which saves families $4 million. That’s a great way to put it, but we need to be funding education more, I think.
Still, 8th graders are first in the nation for science, which is pretty damn good. What’s more, 40,000 more kids are getting a healthy breakfast at school, and this is the kind of stuff that makes Jeff Bridges proud, which is good.
After that we moved on to the idea that the middle class will grow because wealth trickles down. Bullock mentioned Wisconsin, a state with a $2.2 billion deficit. Kansas has $650 million in budget deficits. New Jersey has had its credit rated downgraded eight times in the past few years.
Shit, that’s hard talk.
We haven’t done that in Montana, he says. We’ve stayed in the black, kept our balanced budget, and kept a friendly and favorable tax climate.
Bullock wants the state to be the most fiscally conservative state in the country. He mentioned how he was chided for his desire to have a surplus…but this is what gets us accolades as a good place to do business.
What does that money mean, that surplus money?
It got us through the recession without laying off state workers or reducing services. Those things got us highlighted nationally as the most fiscally prudent state in the nation.
Wow, that’s impressive.
And then we get to the $300 million surplus. Since 1990, we’ve fallen below $300 million sixteen times, and we had to have a special session three times because of that. Special sessions cost $70,000 a day.
That got a good applause out of Angela McLean, which was nice to see.
We moved onto infrastructure after that, primarily talking about eastern Montana at first. I get it, we think of the state as a whole now, it makes sense. Then we got to the bill, and the sterling credit rating, and bonding.
Montana has the lowest debt per capita, coming in at 47/50 overall, whish is really good. We’ve insisted on disciplined fiscal management. We can use bonds at historic rates, therefore.
Bonds plus cash just makes sense. No reason was given why we need so much in bonds, however.
We regularly issue bonds for projects. After that it was made clear there would be no pet projects, there would be one infrastructure bill, Dillon, Culbertson, and everywhere in between.
Let’s make sure our friends and neighbors are doing the work, so we need to be hiring Montanans to do the job. It sounds like a no-brainer, so let’s do it. Bullock mentioned a bill trying to get that up to 75% favorable hire rate for Montanans, but that bill never came to his desk. Are you serious? Thankfully Senator Driscoll has a bill to correct this error before it becomes a long-term mistake.
The governor mentions how he always talks to business owners about moving into the state. They need a pipeline of talented and trained workers. We already have a low unemployment rate, so how can we do this?
He discusses investing $40 million to streamline education ideas. He mentions that you don’t always get a degree, but you get skills, and that translates into jobs.
Bullock mentions that when his mom was working in 1978 women were making about $0.56 for every $1 a man got. We’ve come a bit since then, about $0.20. I still think women making $0.74 for every $1 a man gets is just not acceptable.
We’re trying to get training centers to help women negotiate for pay and benefits. It’s about being more assertive and getting things done.
Women get 10 weeks unemployment insurance if they leave their job because they’re being beaten at home. Most jobs give 20 weeks for just about anything. Why is there this discrepancy?
State employees sometimes have to leave jobs to take care of family members, and when they come back to the state they have to start at zero. This is also not acceptable.
State block grants to communities will be provided, and school boards can decide what to do with that money. It’s more money for local areas, plain and simple.
Education has become a partisan football. Bullock mentions how Republican governors around the country are funding this, even those with the really under water states Bullock mentioned at the beginning. Thankfully we have $300 million in the bank, and that’s after we fund this great program.
Bullock moved onto mental illness after that, and the problem we have with suicide in this state. That’s why we need to invest in community-based services. Again, it’s taking that state money and giving it back to communities in the form of services that help people. And who doesn’t want to help some veteran that’s feeling the world is against them?
Warm Springs has 51 people sleeping in an area for 32, and that’s not good for anyone, including the staff. We could fund this and solve this problem, and we can even have more mental health agencies in the counties, service clinics. We have the money – let’s use it!
Elder abuse was mentioned next, and how there are simply too many cases to handle for the current staff. Next came child abuse. We’re talking about 13 positions to help children being abused, but the 2013 Legislature refused. Thankfully Representative Kimberly Dudik has a bill to fix this.
And it helps them, so much so. All that money to rural healthcare, which creates millions of dollars in wages? Wow, talk about a boost!
Montana Republicans want to tell hardworking people to get a second or third job. That’s what refusing federal healthcare dollars means.
Bullock moved on to economic uncertainty in agriculture. He talked about the water rights being discussed. He’ll fight for public access to rivers and streams. Public lands will not be sold off to the highest bidder.
Duane Aukney and Montana history came next, the stranglehold of the copper barons, and unscrupulous politicians. And after that he said dark money corrupts our system and it’s up to us to fix it.
Vision of Montana talk came next, and it was made clear we’d keep traditions alive. That meant public schools, sensible state funding, a robust middle class with great jobs and opportunities.
And that was about it. Wow, what a long speech, huh!
It’s a video of Obama in Saudi Arabia yesterday meeting with the new leader. He had a handshake line, and his wife stood there. Now, this is a country where women can’t drive, and they have to be covered from head to toe.
None of them shook her hand, but at least a few acknowledged her, as you can see in the Daily Mail linke.
Thank God we have women like Michelle Obama that will stand there and look those men in the eye and make a statement for the rest of the world to see.