As 2017 comes to an end, Gov. Steve Bullock offered his year in review, highlighting bipartisan progress and his administration’s efforts to keep Montana moving forward.
While not without challenges, including the most expensive fire season on record and a special session to balance the state’s budget, Bullock said Montanans should be pleased with new opportunities to strengthen our growing economy, increase access to public lands, ensure a quality education for students, and improve health care.
Here’s the list of achievements released by the Office of the Governor.
2017 Legislative Achievements
QUALITY JOBS PLAN: Governor Bullock signed into law his Quality Jobs Plan that both aims to increase career opportunities for Montanans by providing businesses with a tax incentive to grow apprenticeships and lower taxes on Main Street businesses by giving local governments the option to waive up to 75 percent of new or expanding businesses’ equipment tax obligation.
MONTANA FAMILIES: Governor Bullock signed the Working Montana Families Tax Credit to 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 percent of the federal earned income tax credit.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: Governor Bullock signed into law a suite of bills to reform Montana’s criminal justice system aimed at improving outcome for offenders, providing more treatment options, saving taxpayers money, and keeping our communities safe.
PROTECT MONTANA KIDS: Governor Bullock signed into law five measures recommended by his Protect Montana Kids Commission to expand services and increase protections of Montana’s kids in foster care. This includes the establishment of the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission tasked with reviewing trends of abuse and neglect to inform policies and practices.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: Governor Bullock signed into law an investment of $1 million into youth suicide prevention efforts, targeted at providing schools, tribes, tribal and urban health care providers, and organizations with community prevention grants.
UNEMPLOYMENT: Montana’s unemployment rate held steady throughout the year at 4 percent or below, at the ideal rate and below the national average.
JOBS: More Montanans are working than ever before in the state’s history and Montana experienced the 4th highest wage growth in the nation over the last ten years.
APPRENTICESHIPS: Governor Bullock 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. Montana has grown apprenticeships by nearly 30 percent since 2013.
INDIAN COUNTRY: The Montana Tribal College Apprenticeship initiative started by Governor Bullock continues to add new apprenticeships integrated with post-secondary coursework at five of Montana’s tribal colleges. These new apprenticeships offer students on-the-job training, college credit and earnings, and will connect students to jobs in a variety of sectors with certifications.
ACCESS: Governor Bullock collaborated with sportsmen groups and landowners to create the Montana Public Land Access Network (MT-PLAN) to increase access to public lands by pursuing public access easements and completing projects that enhance existing public access sites in Montana. Additionally, Governor Bullock created a Public Access Specialist to troubleshoot specific issues preventing full public access to public lands.
OUTDOOR RECREATION: Governor Bullock created the Office of Outdoor Recreation to support growth in this industry, enable the industry’s success, and ensure that our recreation resources can continue to thrive for current and future generations. Outdoor recreation in Montana generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending annually, supports 71,000 direct jobs with $2.2 billion in wages, and contributes $286 million in state and local tax revenue.
NOT ON OUR WATCH: Speaking to thousands of hunters, ranchers, anglers, veterans, grandparents and children during a rally at the State Capitol in January, Governor Bullock declared that Montana’s public lands would not be sold to the highest bidder on his watch.
PRESCHOOL: Governor Bullock secured the first-ever state investment in publicly-funded, high-quality early childhood education. The funding created the STARS Preschool pilot program, which is now providing 300 of Montana’s four-year-olds with access to preschool in 17 communities across the state.
DUAL ENROLLMENT: More than 5,000 students enrolled in dual credit courses across the state this year, growing by over 1,000 students from the previous year and hitting the goal set by Governor Bullock to increase enrollment. Last year, Montana families saved $4 million in future tuition costs.
BROADBAND: Governor Bullock created a state match to leverage broadband funds to help schools upgrade their broadband infrastructure and teamed up with EducationSuperHighway to help school districts make significant upgrades to high-speed broadband. Over percent of school districts in Montana meet the FCC’s minimum connectivity goal, up from 78 percent in 2015.
BREAKFAST: Governor and First Lady Bullock partnered with Montana No Kid Hungry to provide over $67,000 in private grant funding to 16 Montana schools to expand school breakfast programs and ensure students are receiving a quality education on a full stomach.
BIPARTISANSHIP: Throughout repeated attempts by Congress to destabilize or repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act without a viable solution, Governor Bullock worked with Republican and Democratic governors across the nation to urge that Congress bring them to the table for discussions and seek bipartisan solutions to health care reform, address rising costs, and restore stability.
MEDICAID EXPANSION: Governor Bullock announced that the state has saved $30 million as a result Medicaid expansion in Montana. Over 86,000 Montanans have gained access to healthcare from Medicaid expansion and the uninsured rate in Montana has dropped from a staggering 20 percent in 2013 to 7 percent in 2016.
MENTAL HEALTH: Governor Bullock signed into law the Montana Mental Health Parity Act to require insurance plans to give equal treatment for physical health, mental health, and substance use disorders. 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.
SUBSTANCE USE TREATMENT: Governor Bullock signed into law the Help Save Lives from Overdose Act, which issued a standing order authorizing opioid antagonists, and the Access to Behavioral Health Act, which has already doubled access to Medicaid substance use treatment providers in Montana. Additionally, Governor Bullock has partnered with over 100 stakeholder entities throughout Montana to seek innovative ways to prevent deaths, and find treatment and support for those struggling with substance use disorders.
SPECIAL SESSION: Governor Bullock brought together Republican and Democratic legislators to avoid an additional $150 million in cuts to essential government services by proposing fund transfers, revenue increases, and other legislation to balance the budget during a special legislative session.
MONTANANS COMING TOGETHER: At the peak of the fire season, Governor Bullock mobilized over 500 National Guardsmen and women, over 5,000 people were assigned to fight fires, and thousands of additional Montanans volunteered their time to support their neighbors impacted by the fires.
FEDERAL FUNDING: Governor Bullock worked with federal partners, including FEMA Administrator Brock Long, to secure federal funding to assist with firefighting costs. FEMA issued a total of 9 FMAGs to assist with 75 percent of the response expenses.
RECOVERY: During and after Montana’s long and expensive fire season, Governor Bullock worked with local, state, and federal partners to support communities by dedicating resources from the state’s environmental contingency fund to work with conservation districts on fire recovery and identifying state and federal programs to assist businesses impacted by the fires.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER: Despite heightened partisanship and divisive political rhetoric, Governor Bullock continued to bring people together from both sides of the aisle, from legislators to governors across the nation, to advance meaningful policies and legislation that benefits Montanans.
WESTERN GOVERNORS: Governor Bullock welcomed governors from across the West to Whitefish for the Western Governors’ Association Annual meeting in June. Governors participated in roundtables on critical issues facing the West, such as trade, infrastructure, and natural resources, and Governor Bullock discussed his central policy initiative of national forest and rangeland management, as chair of the association.
NATIONAL GOVERNORS: Governor Bullock, formally seated as vice chairman of the National Governors Association this year, worked with Republican and Democratic governors on a range of issues from health care and CHIP, to apprenticeships, work-based learning, and electric vehicles. Governor Bullock will be seated as chair in summer 2018.