Opinion: Cooney has the plan and trust for Montana’s future

Montana is truly at a crossroads. Our public lands, economy, natural resources, communities, health and healthcare, are all at great risk in the Governor’s race. We all have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of our fellow Montanans.

Montana has thrived under the leadership of Governor Bullock and Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney. According to the State of Montana, our economy added 46,000 jobs since the end of the recession; experienced the 6th fastest wage growth in annual wages in the nation over the past decade; ranked 1st in the nation for median household income growth from 2016 to 2017; and had the highest rate of business ownership among households.

Montana was also ranked top in the nation in startup activity per capita, with 4,932 new firms opening in Montana in the last year. Montana also had the fifth best tax climate in the nation. Exports from Montana reached a record $1.7 billion in 2018, an increase of 19% ($272 million) from its export level in 2008. Montana’s high tech companies generated over $2 billion in revenue last year, growing nine times faster than the state’s overall economy and paying double the median wage. And thanks to the leadership of Mike Cooney, tens of thousands of Montanans including many small businesses now have access to reliable affordable healthcare.

Cooney provides a good plan to recruit new businesses, grow existing businesses, help with business transition, and ensure our workforce training programs work in unison to meet the needs of our economy in 2030. His Hire Montanans First Act will increase the required proportion of Montana workers on state and locally funded contracts to 75 percent, expanding this requirement to all projects; his Buy Made in Montana Act requires the state government to prefer Montana-made products in its purchases.

Among other priorities, Cooney will create an Office of Rural Prosperity to prioritize economic development and job creation in rural Montana by streamlining rural policy and creating an inventory of existing resources and initiatives while aiding in rural improvement efforts.

As Lieutenant Governor, Mike Cooney understands that the state must provide a climate where Montana businesses and communities can thrive in the 21st century. That means ensuring we have the necessary foundation for successful sustainable economic and community development including access to affordable and reliable healthcare, social services, good quality education, affordable housing, infrastructure, transportation, and protection of our greatest assets – our public lands and natural resources. Through his dedicated public service, Cooney continues to build this foundation.

Addressing the economic fallout from the pandemic has been a major issue for both Bullock and Cooney. They successfully convened a diverse and bipartisan Covid-19 task force, working hard to keep all Montanans and Montana businesses whole by creating necessary programs with funding available and accessible to all Montanans to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. This includes childcare grants for working families and funds for businesses to help mitigate the effects of pandemic.

Gianforte is a threat to our state and our well-being. He sued the State to block access to public lands for his own personal benefit. Gianforte’s family foundation gave money to groups trying to privatize our public lands. He drafted two bills to Congress to release almost 690,000 acres of land from wilderness area designations, allowing mining and oil drilling.

He has voted to eliminate health insurance and coverage for preexisting conditions under the Affordable Care Act for thousands of Montanans including our small businesses that rely heavily on it. He has called Medicaid expansion which provides services to over 90,000 Montanans a disaster. He has expressed extreme views against Social Security and Medicare, supporting cuts in both. He has not displayed even a broad understanding of our state or a concern for the needs of Montanans.

As Governor, Gianforte’s sole “plan” for Montana is to reduce taxes on rich corporations, exploit our natural resources, and sell off our public lands to the highest bidder. We can’t trust Gianforte to look out for our interests. We need a Governor like Mike Cooney who has shown us already that he can work for all Montanans.

Chuck Tooley, Billings

Joan Stapleton Tooley, Billings

Renee Coppock, Billings

David Coppock, Billings

Jaq Quanbeck, Billings

Deborah Carstensen, Swan Valley

Andrew Carstensen, Swan Valley

Kathy Koors, Swan Valley

Wendy Weaver, Livingston

Teresa O’Neil, Missoula

Victoria Scott, Billings

Sandra Baril, Billings

Donna Fraser, Sheridan

Renelle Braaten, Havre

Monica Garrahan, Havre

Leslie Clark, Whitehall

Elizabeth Klarich, Billings

Dave Klarich, Billings

Randy Sorkness, Laurel

Anne Sawyer Harris, Billings

Bob Dalrymple, Billings

Carolyn Pease Lopez, Billings

Virginia, Bryan, Billings

Merry Ann Peters, Billings

Rhonda Whiteman, Billings

Julie Hippler, Billings

Scott Prinzing, Billings

Kristen Rickels Prinzing, Billings

Rob Wells, Billings

Rita Wells, Billings

Sheila P. Dixon, Fallon

James Dixon, Fallon

Dan Young, Billings

Ione Young, Billings

Katie Sutton, Billings

Dr. Lucinda Husby, Billings

Gray Harris, Billings

Gayle Serratt, Trout Creek

Dr. Susan Elliot, Red Lodge

Anna Brown, Belgrde

Margie Adams, Red Lodge

Holly Morgan Carr, Lone Pine

Kimberly Kradolfer, Helena

Amy Sowers, Bozeman

Andrea Albem, Gold Creek

Amorette F. Allison, Miles City

Pam Little, Hamilton

Beth Berlin, Missoula

Suzanne Artley, Florence

Heidi Kestral, Florence

Andy Boyd, Bozeman

Cassandra Noonan, Butte

Susan Gobbs, Helena

Heather McCullough Demarois, Missoula

Jael Kampfe, Bear Creek

Athie Olney Lang, Helena

Kierstin Schmitt, Corvallis

Dwight Welch, Billings

Gerre Maillet, Belgrade

Kathy Hadley, Deer Lodge

Susan Stensland Torgerson, Whitehall

Kathy Wise, Billings

Al Wise, Billings

Linda Healow, Billings

Karl Kleinert, Sunburst

Julie Kleinert, Sunburst

Wanda Lacroix, Missoula

Liz Hoveland, Bigfork

Roxy Burley, Billings

Joan Sanders Borneman, Anaconda

Tee Noel, Bozeman

Nancy Thompson Flikkema, Bozeman

Marie Jenson, Polson

Julie Betz, Billings

Lauren Cardneaux, Billings

Kathy Littlebird, Swan Valley

Becky Guay, Anaconda

Kendra Shaw, Billings

Paula Salter, Billings

Mel Holloway, Hamilton

Courtney Grigg, Bozeman

Marilyn Nelson, Whitefish

Debbie Woegens, Billings

Sue Standley, Helena

Ed Standley, Helena

Terry Lynn Minow, Boulder

Irene L. Cook, Hamilton

Lori Blaylock, Billings

Debra McNeill, Bozeman

Sandi Sniscak, Bozeman

Pete Strom, Bozeman

Julie Williams, Shepherd

Ann Mary Dussault, Missoula

Paul Donaldson, Helena

Becky Donaldson, Helena

Carly Kleinert, Missoula

Mary Fahnestock-Thomas, Hamilton

Donna Gleaves, Helena

Cecily Townsend, Helena

Mindy Obert, Big Timber

Robin Dewey, Corvallis

Barbara Archer, Billings

Rita Harding, Billings

Kendra Shaw, Billings

Courtney Griss, Bozeman

Erin Crabtree, Missoula

Patricia Gesuale, Billings

Perry Miller, Havre

Teresa Miller, Havre

Curt Synness, Helena

Melissa Synness, Helena

Michelle Klinger Risho, Bozeman

Tom Barger, Arlee

Kathy Cole Coppedge, Denton

Barbara Calm, Kila

Marcia Armstrong, Helena

Les Clark, Helena

Zane Zell, Shelby

Gloria Zell, Shelby

Erin Crabtree, Missoula

Sarah Prodell, Missoula

Dana Boussard, Arlee

Stan Reifel, Arlee

Ann Danzer, Helena

Bonnie Barger, Arlee

Barbara Archer, Billings

Tom Tully, Billings

Mary DeNevi, Missoula

Holly Kaleczyc, Helena

Stan Kaleczyc, Helena

Betsy Hall Nordell, Helena

Dave Seeley, Florence

Anita Paoli, Livingston

Roger Sherman, Whitefish

Emily Ibison, Florence

Carole Baumann, Billings