“New chapter in Montana:” Gianforte takes oath, sets sights on taxes, government reform
Calling it a new chapter in state history, Greg Gianforte raised his right hand during a virtual ceremony on Monday and took the oath as Montana's 25th governor, where he vowed to reform state government and cut taxes.
With a small audience in attendance – and on the first day of the Legislature – Gianforte laid down four core principals that will guide his decisions as the state's first Republican governor in 16 years.
“Today's inauguration sets a new chapter in Montana,” he said. “Today marks a new chapter in our history.”
Gianforte, who served as the state's lone member in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past four years – and who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2016 – thanked former Gov. Steve Bullock for his service and for a smooth transition.
With Republicans now in control of the Legislature and the governor's office, the party is clear to implement a range of policies, from restricting the power of local governments to address local challenges, to cutting taxes and reforming state government.
Despite the lack of political balance in Helena, Gianforte said he's willing to work with “anyone with a good idea.”
“I will work toward creating better opportunities for all Montanans,” he said. “I take the oath of office here today prepared to lead Montana's comeback, with the strong mandate you provided to us, with the largest margin for a first-term governor in over 100 years.”
Gianforte acknowledged the impacts the coronavirus pandemic has had on the state over the past 10 months. It has challenged state educators, parents and businesses. It also has stressed frontline workers and strained the state's healthcare system.
He vowed to lead what he described as “Montana's comeback.”
“I am confident that with vaccines and increased testing, we'll get a better handle on our response to COVID-19,” Gianforte said. “I am confident that our economy will rebound. I am confident Montanans will get back to work in good paying jobs.”
To get there, Gianforte laid down four core principals that will govern his first year as the state's new governor. He named economic growth and more good paying jobs as his top priority.
Gianforte said the state has the building blocks in place, from a strong work ethic and quality of life rooted in public lands and access to outdoor recreation. But while the foundation is there, he said the state hasn't been living up to its full potential.
“Our environment for small businesses must improve,” he said. “I am committed to making Montana more competitive by lowering taxes, cutting red tape and improving infrastructure. Montana is open for business.”
Gianforte also set his sights on state government, naming reform as a priority. The state must change that way it conducts business, he said, and provide a better customer experience.
Fiscal responsibility will be part of that equation. He said spending “has grown out of control” with taxpayers sending more and more money to Helena, which has developed an “insatiable appetite.”
“We must provide essential services while living within our means and providing much needed tax relief to hard working Montanans,” Gianforte said. “We must be better stewards of taxpayer money. We must run our state government more efficiently.”
Gianforte said he'd also work to protect Montana's way of life. During the campaign, Democrats saw an opportunity to question Gianforte's history on public lands, the environment and public access, though it had little impact on the outcome of the election.
Gianforte didn't mention climate change during his acceptance speech on Monday, nor was there a visible Native American presence. But the new governor said he'd work to protect public lands and tackle other challenges that threaten Montana's quality of life.
“We must protect our Public lands and conserve them, and increase access to them. We must protect the rights enshrined in our Constitution,” he said. “We must protect our communities and families, particularly from crime and the epidemic of drug addiction.”
Gianforte's wife was in attendance on Monday, and Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras also took the oath of office. Gianforte cited a quote from the 1700s on “the providence of almighty God,” saying his faith would guide him during his time in office.
“I hold President Washington's wise words closely,” he said.