Greg Gianforte: 2020 General Election Q&A
Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.
Greg Gianforte is the 2020 Republican candidate for governor.
What makes you the best candidate to be Montana’s next governor and how do you stand out from your opponent(s)?
We face serious challenges that require serious solutions. While COVID-19 has threatened our health and safety, it’s also threatened our livelihood. Too many folks find themselves out of work and without a paycheck. Too many businesses have had to shut down.
As your next governor, my top priority is to get our economy going again, get Montana open for business, and get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs.
I’ve built a business and created more than 500 high-paying jobs in Montana. I know what it takes, and I’ll roll up my sleeves and start working on it immediately. We must reform our tax code and reduce unnecessary regulations to boost our key industries – ag, energy, mining, timber, natural resources, high tech, and travel, tourism, and hospitality.
My opponent doesn’t get it. He’s a 44-year career politician who thinks businesses can thrive and create Montana jobs with higher taxes, bigger government, and more regulations.
States across the country are feeling health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. What role should the governor take over the coming year to slow the virus’ spread and repair the economy?
I trust Montanans to protect their health and that of their family, friends, and neighbors. As governor, we will combat this virus together, and I will emphasize providing Montanans with guidance over imposing government mandates.
I’m an optimist, and for good reason. We are making great progress toward a vaccine.
But more than that, Montanans have proven they’re resilient and hardworking. With the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout, I’m confident we’ll bounce back. We will overcome this invisible enemy and come out of it stronger than before.
As your next governor, my top priority will be to get our economy going again, get Montana open for business, and get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs. Working with Democrats and Republicans, we will work to reform our tax code, conduct a top-to-bottom review of regulations, recruit new businesses, and improve infrastructure, particularly access to broadband in our underserved communities.
What actions would you take or what issues would you prioritize that you believe haven’t been addressed by the current governor?
We face serious challenges that require serious solutions. Many of these challenges, however, pre-date the COVID-19 crisis.
Montana ranks near the bottom – 44th in the nation – for wages. We don’t have enough good-paying jobs.
Montana ranks last in the nation in starting teacher pay. We can’t attract and keep high-quality teachers in our classrooms to educate our kids.
Montana ranks second in the nation with children in foster care per capita. We face a drug epidemic, primarily meth, that is tearing apart families and breaking up families.
Montana ranks in the top-three in the nation for suicide. We don’t have enough access to mental health care services.
Montana deserves better.
It’s why I’ve outlined my priorities and serious solutions in the Montana Comeback Plan. Our Montana Comeback Plan is a starting point. We have much to do to get our state back on track and on our way to reaching its full, outstanding potential. Please visit MontanaBusinessPlan.com to learn more.
What are your top three policy priorities that you would like to see passed during the 2021 legislative session?
My top priority is to get our economy going again, get Montana open for business, and get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs.
As governor, I will work with Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to move forward with an agenda built for more jobs, greater opportunity, and increased growth.
Many of the ideas for that agenda may be found in the Montana Comeback Plan, which we released in mid-July. We asked Montanans for their ideas, and they answered the call. Folks across our state submitted their ideas, and they’re in the Montana Comeback Plan at MontanaBusinessPlan.com.
There are several steps we must take to create the kind of environment where businesses are able to thrive, create more good-paying jobs, and increase opportunities for all Montanans. We must reduce the cost of doing business in our state – from reforming our anti-competitive tax code to improving education to empowering Montana’s workforce.
What areas of state spending should be increased and what should be cut? Please provide specific policies, programs or agencies.
When you’re in a hole, the first step to getting out is to stop digging. State government spending goes up every single year. In fact, it has gone up over 60 percent in the past 10 years alone. As your next governor, I’ll hold the line on state spending.
Just because state government brings in more money, it doesn’t mean it has to spend it. After all, it’s not the state’s money. It’s the money you earned that you’re sending to Helena.
We have to hold the line on state spending. When we do, I’ll use the resulting budget surpluses to permanently reduce property and income taxes for all Montana taxpayers.
As governor, I’ll bring more effective oversight to our state agencies, and will conduct a comprehensive, top-to-bottom review of all state agencies and programs to cut waste, eliminate inefficiencies, and streamline operations
I’ll also ensure agencies have the resources they need to succeed and return any excess to the General Fund.
What changes, if any, do you believe Montana should make to the state’s tax system?
As your next governor, I’ll hold the line on state spending to permanently reduce property and income tax rates for all Montana taxpayers.
Unfortunately, our state’s anti-competitive tax code effectively hangs a “closed” sign on Montana’s door. It places a heavy burden on small businesses, makes it challenging to start a new business, and drives away potential businesses from locating in our state and bringing good-paying jobs with them.
High property and income taxes as well as a punishing, complex business equipment tax conspire to make it harder for new businesses to start up in Montana and for existing businesses to make critical investments.
As a result, Montanans are losing out on opportunities and good-paying jobs.
We must reform our outdated, anti-competitive tax code to promote business investment and job creation.
As governor, I’ll be pro-jobs and pro-business. I’ll work with the legislature to make our tax code more competitive, so Montana can attract businesses, promote entrepreneurship, and have more good-paying Montana jobs.
What is the top health care issue Montanans are facing and how would you address it?
Montanans don’t have enough choice in health care, and what they do have, they pay too much for – from their health care premiums to their prescription drugs. Montanans deserve a health system that provides access to high-quality, affordable care, protects people with preexisting conditions, and offers transparency and choice.
Our health care system is broken. To fix it, we need Montana solutions – not a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach with mandates from bureaucrats in Washington.
Fixing our broken health care system must center on three pillars: bringing down the cost of care, protecting Montanans with preexisting conditions, and preserving rural access to care.
As your next governor, I’m committed to reducing health care costs by increasing choice, encouraging innovation, reducing unnecessary regulations, promoting competition, and increasing transparency.
I’m also dedicated to ending surprise medical billing, improving mental health care, and providing a strong safety net for the most vulnerable.
What role, if any, should the governor of Montana take in reducing the effects of climate change?
Climate changes is real, though we don’t know to what extent man contributes to it. The solution to addressing climate change is unleashing American innovation, not imposing overbearing government mandates. History bears out the successes of American innovation for confronting our challenges.
As governor, I’ll promote American innovation and avoid mandates that drive up prices that consumers pay, including for our electricity.
I also strongly believe we can protect our environment and responsibly develop our natural resources. The two are not mutually exclusive.
In that vein, one way to reduce our carbon footprint is to improve how we manage our forests, because trees are one of nature’s carbon sequestration devices. In fact, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science reported that planting a trillion trees across the globe could sequester 205 gigatonnes of carbon, or about two-thirds of all manmade carbon since the Industrial Revolution.
What does "protecting public lands" mean to you and are there specific policies you would support to forward that vision?
Protecting our public lands is something that unites us as Montanans. They’re part of our way of life.
Susan and I raised our four kids in Bozeman hunting, fishing, rafting, climbing, skiing and backpacking on our public lands.
Three principles guide me with public lands. First, we must keep public lands in public hands. Second, we must work to increase public access to our public lands. Finally, we must listen to the voices of local communities.
In Congress, my first bill signed into law conserved a portion of the East Rosebud near Red Lodge as a “wild and scenic river,” Montana’s first “wild and scenic river” designation in more than 40 years.
I also worked with Democrats and Republicans to permanently protect the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
As governor, I’ll build on that work and adhere strongly to my three guiding principles. I know that together we’ll protect our public lands for all Montanans and for generations to come.
Do you support changing laws regarding access to abortions in Montana? What specific changes would you support and under what circumstances do you believe abortions should be legal?
I believe all life is precious and must be protected.
In 2019, the Montana legislature passed a bill requiring doctors to perform lifesaving medical care on babies born alive after an attempted abortion.
The Bullock-Cooney administration vetoed the bill.
This isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a controversial bill. There is broad support – from Republicans, independents, and Democrats – to require medical professionals to provide care to and save the life of a baby born alive from a failed abortion.
If the legislature sends that bill to my desk, I will sign it into law.
Do you believe the current gubernatorial administration is transparent and accessible? What will your administration do to make sure your actions are transparent and accessible to the public and the press?
With transparency and accountability in state government, I strongly believe better is always possible.
As Montana’s congressman, I’ve worked toward greater transparency. That’s why I released ten years of my state and federal tax returns. It’s also why I put my investments into a blind investment agreement, leaving me with no control over them and avoiding potential conflicts of interest.
Accessibility is another critical piece of the puzzle for a better, more responsive government. As Montana’s congressman, I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times on television and radio. We’ve held nearly monthly town halls that reach about 100,000 Montanans for each event. We’ve been accessible and responsive to Montana journalists.
And I’ll bring that same approach to the governor’s office, emphasizing direct outreach, accessibility, transparency, and accountability.
What other issues are important to your campaign?
Montana faces a drug crisis that’s ripping apart our families and devastating our communities. Meth use and opioid misuse have impacted far too many Montanans. Addiction hurts not only the addict, but also the addict’s family, friends, and community.
Some business owners have told me that over 50 percent of job applicants can’t pass a drug test. Law enforcement officers have told me that over 90 percent of burglaries, vandalism, and domestic violence are drug related. Tragically, drug use also contributes to the breakdown of the family with over 4,000 Montana kids in foster care.
We must focus on prevention and on promoting treatment and recovery for non-violent addicts. Locking them up doesn’t help them get clean and healthy.
Treatment courts work. Not only do they help addicts rebuild their lives, but also they cost a fraction of incarceration. Too many counties, however, don’t have a treatment court. As governor, I’ll work to expand this successful program into more communities.