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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Gov. Bullock Explains His 2015 Legislative Priorities

2011 Century Council

Montana Governor Steve Bullock discusses Medicaid expansion, early-childhood education, infrastructure spending, the upcoming legislature, and more with "Home Ground" host Brian Kahn.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Bullock says the "Healthy Montana" plan is a unique solution that will insure thousands of Montanans and help relieve the burden of uncompensated care on small hospitals.

"Our Healthy Montana plan, what it really does is takes parts of both the pure private option, and pure Medicaid expansion. We'd be the only state in the country that has a program like this. It's modeled after the Healthy Montana Kids program.

"But the idea that 'we shouldn't do it because it has federal dollars, our failure to do that, not only means 70,000 Montanans won't have access to health care; and that includes 9,500 veterans and their families; it also means that our critical access hospitals, our smaller hospitals are struggling because of the degree of uncompensated care that's walking through their doors."

"The folks that don't have insurance are going to the emergency rooms where it is the most expensive care. And those costs are also shifted to those of us with insurance, in the degree of higher premiums.

"If we don't do it; yes it's a federally subsidized program; but our tax-dollars are covering people in states like Nevada or Arizona or Ohio or New Jersey. States with Republican governors that might have had some fundamental issues with the Affordable Care Act. But they said when it came to their state, their economy, they needed to do this."

Infrastructure Spending

Due to low interest rates brought about by responsible budgeting, it makes sense to pay for infrastructure investments mostly through bonds, Bullock says.

"When we have infrastructure needs that will provide a return over the long term; and when we have record-low interest rates because of the way that we've managed our money; any business man or woman would do the same thing."

"Our proposal does about a third of it in cash, and two thirds of it by taking advantage of what truly are record-low interest rates," Bullock says.

"This last year, the money that the state Board of Investments invested had a 17 percent return, whereas you can borrow money for 4 percent because of what we've done with our state's bond rating.

Early Childhood Education

"We need to actually look at the data. Forty Two states have made these investments. Where actually the more significant investments are occurring is in Republican-led states with Republican governors. The reason why I think that is, is because they've seen that these are investments, these are dollars spent that can make a significant, significant difference.

(Broadcast: "Home Ground Radio," 12/14/14. Listen weekly on the radio, Sundays at  11:10 a.m., or via podcast.)

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