I began this legislative session with my fourth and final State of the State address, detailing how even in the face of Washington DC’s partisan gridlock, we in Montana can still be a shining example of how our political system is supposed to work. I spoke of working across the aisle to give every Montanan a fair shot, and building upon the progress we have made as a state over the past few years. As an eternal optimist, I knew that regardless of political party we could come together for Montanans.
We did come together, and my optimism was proven out in Montana’s 66th legislative session. Nearly every single proposal I asked the legislature to take seriously arrived at my desk.
We protected the healthcare of nearly 10% of Montanans by reauthorizing Medicaid expansion. We preserved access to vital physical and mental health care, while also preserving jobs, our economy, and our rural hospitals.
We passed laws to tackle skyrocketing prescription drug costs, and for the Montanans who receive health coverage on the individual marketplace, we created a state reinsurance program to lower premiums by 10–20%.
We banned foreign spending in our elections, so Montanans can rest assured our elections are truly by Americans, for Americans. Other states have tried and failed to pass a ban on foreign spending after the threats we faced in 2016. Montana was the only one to get it done.
We froze college tuition, taking concrete steps to remedy our country’s student loan crisis and preventing what amounts to a tax increase for 28,000 Montana families. Montana will now no longer be the only state in the nation that doesn’t provide state-funded, need-based financial aid for students and adult learners. And we are making an increased investment of $77 million over the next two years into our K-12 schools.
We gave our small businesses the tools they need to succeed, passing incentives for small businesses in rural and urban communities to create and retain jobs in their communities.
We finally broke the logjam on infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs and investing in our public works instead of passing on crumbling infrastructure to our kids.
We honored our Tribal nations, passing a package of legislation, including Hanna’s Act, to report, investigate and address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. We’re again providing funding to preserve our Native languages, and so too our culture and rich history. And in two years when the legislature convenes again, the flags of our Tribal nations will be on permanent display on our State Capitol grounds.
The legislature has now left town, but I still have a job to do. Over 200 bills have just been delivered to my office, and my veto pen is at the ready to ensure our budget is balanced and we have enough leftover for a rainy day.
I walked into my last legislative session hopeful and determined, and I still am. I know that Montanans can be proud of their legislators who made governing not about political wins and losses, but about coming to the table in the face of a national partisan gridlock to make Montanans’ lives better. The work we’ve done here will have a lasting impact on Montana’s future — and show the rest of the nation what’s possible when you break through partisan divides and actually get to governing.