HELENA - Governor Steve Bullock gave his annual State of the State speech in Helena on Wednesday evening.
"I am pleased to report that the state of our state is strong," Bullock said to applause in the chamber.
Bullock discussed some of his main themes of this legislative session including Medicaid expansion, early childhood education, and his $300 million infrastructure bill.
But first, he gave a positive picture of the state of things, stating, "We're creating jobs at a pace that is among the fastest in our state's history; over 12,000 jobs created last year alone."
He also explained what he thinks is at stake with Medicaid expansion. He said, "Medicaid expansion is about 70,000 Montanans who aren't offered, or who can't afford healthcare."
"This is about primary-care nurses helplessly watching their uninsured patients forego the additional treatment they need to fight chronic illnesses," Bullock continued. "The 70,000 Montanans who are hiding in plain view. They're the working poor, the folks punching the clock but not making enough to afford insurance."
Bullock acknowledged a competing proposal dealing with Medicaid expansion, stating, "I understand that there is a competing proposal being kicked around by some members of this body. It still relies on federal funds yet refuses to take a fair share of those dollars. It would tell tens of thousands of Montanans to get a second or third job."
Bullock also said he wants to freeze in-state college tuition, provide tax credits for apprenticeships and on-the-job training, and invest in mental health facilities; from community-based care to resident facilities like the state hospital in Warm Springs.
Bullock also touched on the continued viability of Montana's rural hospitals, which are critical to the physical and economic health of communities all across Montana.
But in order to accomplish all of his goals, Bullock stated that he will need some help from legislative Republicans who have majorities in both chambers.
And, not everyone was pleased with what the governor had to say on Wednesday.
Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Moore (R) of Miles City spoke before Republicans, outlining the vision of the Montana GOP. He emphasized the issue of employment, saying the private sector, not the federal government, is where jobs come from.
Moore admired Bullock's efforts to tackle Montana's vast infrastructure needs, but noted how the governor's plan is associated with an expensive price tag. Moore says an infrastructure plan warrants a long-term solution.
Moore said, "Unfortunately the governor's proposal looks more like something you'd see out of Washington, DC. The $400 million price tag on the governor's Buy Montana Plan would double our state's debt in one bill."
A statement from the Montana Republican Party was also critical of the governor's Medicaid expansion plan, saying it amounts to more Obamacare for Montana.