HELENA — On Wednesday night, Gov. Greg Gianforte said Montana has made progress in its first two years as governor, but still has work to do.
The Republican delivered his second State of the State address before a joint session of the Montana House and Senate.
Gianforte’s first address in 2021 took place under very different circumstances: about a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It focused on a “comeback plan” for the state. Gianforte said that this agenda was successful.
“Friends, the state of our state is strong, and it is much stronger than it was two years ago,” he said.
2023 State of the State address
Gianforte spoke about the goal of unleashing “the engine” of economic growth and business development. He touted strong economic indicators for the state: high growth relative to other states, record numbers of new businesses and the creation of 31,000 jobs in two years. He said his government is trying to improve people’s chances of success in this state.
“Montana has not realized our outstanding potential for too long,” he said. “Our biggest exports have been beef, grains – and, tragically, our children and grandchildren.”
Gianforte also appealed to lawmakers, which he would like to see in this legislature. He again highlighted one of his top priorities: the “Red Tape Relief” initiative with more than a hundred bills designed to simplify government regulations. He called the state’s regulatory policies a “wet blanket” for companies.
“Thank you to our lawmaking partners for helping more Montanans thrive by removing unnecessary, onerous regulation,” he said.
He spoke about his $1 billion tax break plan. These include bills currently going through the legislature that would lower the top income tax rate, expand the income tax credit, grant property tax rebates, exempt more businesses from the equipment tax, and introduce tax credits for families with young children and adoptions.
Gianforte also called on lawmakers to support $200 million in investments in water and sanitation infrastructure and another $100 million in roads and bridges. He said infrastructure projects like this are key to meeting demand for more housing in Montana.
“Hard-working Montanans should be able to live in the communities where they work, and grandparents should be able to live closer to their children and grandchildren,” he said.
Gianforte also encouraged lawmakers to pass a series of bills encouraging innovation in education, and he renewed his call for $200 million to be donated to the Montana State Prison and millions more to the state’s behavioral health system, including Montana State Hospital invest.
Following Gianforte’s speech, Shannon O’Brien, Sen. Shannon O’Brien, Senator from the Senate Minority Whip, D-Missoula, delivered the Democratic response to the speech. She pointed out what she and her party believe are flaws in Gianforte’s plan to address issues such as housing, education and tax breaks. Democrats have argued that his proposals do not go far enough to reach the scale of what is needed.
“I want to share with you a picture of what it’s really like to be in Montana — and not the multi-millionaires who come here to buy a fourth or fifth home, but these hard-working Montan families who make our state and some of us push older neighbors. Honestly, and not for him, the governor is unavailable,” O’Brien said. “The governor has failed to offer any real solutions to the housing crisis. He sent back $100 million of our federal funds that could have significantly eased the pain of the housing crisis. Instead, he offers a bureaucracy initiative that frankly does nothing for Montana families and the housing shortage.”