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Gianforte suggests MT follow Republicans’ national lead on economic policy

Posted: 5:47 PM, Feb 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-04 19:47:58-05

HELENA – Montana’s Republican congressman, Greg Gianforte, told state lawmakers Monday the national economy is booming because of policies by Republicans and President Trump – and that perhaps Montana should take “a page from our national pro-growth playbook.”

Gianforte – who’s also mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2020 – said Montana should strive to keep taxes low and regulations minimal.

“Government does not create prosperity,” he said. “The private sector does. … Government should and must create an environment where businesses can grow and thrive. We must continue working to get government out of the way, so that all Montanans and Americans can prosper again.”

Also on Monday, a Democratic state lawmaker introduced a bill that takes an indirect swipe at Gianforte.

House Bill 348, from Rep. Tom Woods of Bozeman, would make it a crime in Montana to assault “a member of the press,” with penalties up to one year in jail or a fine of $5,000.

Gianforte pleaded guilty in 2017 to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of Gianforte’s initial election, in May of that year. Jacobs said Gianforte started punching him after Jacobs tried to question him about health-care policy.

Gianforte made no mention of the bill in his speech Monday on the House floor and also didn’t comment on the budget debate before the current Congress.

Instead, he talked mostly about the Montana economy and the need to make the state more competitive for business, including more apprenticeships to help develop the state workforce.

“A four-year college degree isn’t the right education for every person,” he said. “There are many jobs where specialized skills are required. We should promote trades education so Montanans have more options to succeed.”

Gianforte, a high-tech entrepreneur from Bozeman, has been considering whether to run for governor in 2020, sources have told MTN News. He lost the 2016 race to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Two other prominent Republicans have already said they’re running for the governor’s seat in 2020: Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and Attorney General Tim Fox.

Gianforte said one issue he’ll be focusing on this Congress is how to bring more broadband to rural Montana.

“Rural broadband is foundational to our new and evolving economy, whether it’s health care, education, agriculture or high-tech,” he said. “And improving broadband in rural areas is a bipartisan issue.”