Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Senator Daines' Speech To Montana's Legislature

Sen. Steve Daines.
Courtesy photo
Sen. Steve Daines

This transcript of U.S. Senator Steve Daines’ remarks as prepared for delivery was provided by his staff.

Montanans are best at running Montana

Speaker Knudsen, Majority Leader Ehli, Minority Leader Eck, and Members of the State House. I’m honored to accept your invitation, and to speak with you about the great opportunities we, as Montanans, have before us.

Last month, we witnessed the inauguration of our new President Donald Trump. This peaceful transition of power is a testament to the enduring promise of America’s democracy – that a federal government created by the people exists to serve the people. Our federal government was designed to be limited, with limited powers, and the rest was reserved for the States.

However, as we’ve seen in the past eight years, there are times when certain presidencies and their allies view this in reverse: there are those who believe that the Federal government knows better than the States and better than the people. That view ended 33 days ago. January 20, 2017 was more than a transfer of power from one administration to the next. This started a transfer of power from the Federal government, back to the states and back to the people of Montana.

We are at a unique moment in history that many of us haven’t seen in a long time – a moment when Washington is ready to listen, rather than dictate. A moment when Washington understands this most important principle: Montanans are best at running Montana.

Back in 1979 there was a junior from Bozeman High and another junior from White Fish High both headed to Dillon as Boy’s State delegates. The keynote speaker that year was a newly elected U.S. Senator named Max Baucus. Thirty-eight years later, that kid from Bozeman was serving on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the kid from Whitefish was testifying before that same committee to be the next Secretary of Interior. This is a historic moment for Montana as Congressman Zinke will be the first Montanan to ever serve in a President’s cabinet. I look forward to casting my vote to confirm Ryan Zinke next week on the U.S. Senate floor!

Last December, I wrapped up my second 56 County Tour, visiting with Montanans in every corner of the state and every county that each of you call home. From Carter County to Lincoln County, from Sheridan County to Beaverhead County and every county in between.

After traveling thousands of miles across Montana the past two years, I’ve seen a state rich in resources – coal, cattle, wheat, oil, natural gas, timber, wind, hydro, pulse crops, public lands, national parks – but what truly makes our state The Last Best Place is the people, especially our young people who have sadly become our greatest export. As I remind my colleagues in Washington, you’ll never find a better work ethic or a better sense of values than what you find right here with Montana kids.

However, Montanans have been concerned by what’s happening in Washington. I heard from Montanans the need to return educational decisions back to Montana and families, rein in regulations that are killing jobs, to secure our nation, the need to toughen and enforce our trade laws and ensure a level playing field in foreign markets for Montana agriculture, the need to expand made-in-Montana energy, the need to protect access on our public lands and the need for Washington to balance the budget and work for the people. Following the election I gathered a list of DC regulations and policies that Montanans identified to me that have stifled job creation, economic growth, and innovation. I compiled them into a list of actions that I shared with the President for him to make a priority – the first Senator to do so.

The first items on my list stop the war on coal and approve the Keystone Pipeline.

Last fall, I was on my way from Baker to my first stop of the day in Ekalaka – when I stopped to Snapchat a quick update on where I was headed next. Snapchat is a social media application that provides real time updates to followers – in fact 41 percent of all 18 to 34 year olds are using this app. If you haven't heard of it, just ask the next young Montanan you run into. The ‘snap’ was simple – it had a timestamp that read 6AM with a video that said I was on my way to breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Café in Ekalaka.

Over breakfast with the Café’s owner Trish, she mentioned that Kennedy Tooke (TUK), a junior at Carter County High had watched my ‘snapchat’ that morning and wondered if I would stop by the school. I could never turn down an opportunity to visit with Montana’s future leaders at one of our Class C high schools.

As I walked in the doors of the Ekalaka Public Schools, I couldn’t help but notice the some of the state-of-the-art infrastructure. The new gym was recently built and is the pride of 4C in southeast Montana. I asked the superintendent where they got the funds to build it…He told me 92 percent of the tax revenues for schools came from pipelines.

Speaking of pipelines, I’m pleased to report that under the Trump administration we are moving forward to BUILD THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE. Yet another Montana solution…… that no one in yesterday’s Washington DC wanted to listen to –it’s about time Montanans run Montana!

The Keystone XL pipeline will create about 800 jobs in Montana, and generate $80 million a year in Montana property taxes, more than $16 million of which would be distributed to Montana’s schools and the university system. And, it will transport 100,000 barrels a day of Bakken oil. And btw, it will reduce electrical prices ten percent for thousands of eastern Montana customers…(Norval Electric Coop in Glasgow)

Last year President Obama’s EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy appeared before the Appropriations Committee to discuss the impact of the Clean Power Plan regulation that threatens to destroy 7,000 Montana jobs. I challenged her to quantify the environmental benefits for Montana and she could not give me a straight answer.

Of course, that was coming from the same person who couldn’t see the value of the Keystone Pipeline, both in terms of jobs and energy security, and the fact that 21st century pipelines are the most environmentally sound way to transport oil. Even though Montana said “yes” to Keystone, the Obama Administration said “no”.

Fortunately, we have a new EPA Administrator from another Keystone pipeline state who does understand you can be pro-energy and pro-environment. Scott Pruitt and I had a great discussion last week about how we can work together for Montana. Scott understands that we need a true “all of the above energy strategy”…renewable energy and fossil fuels… resulting in more made-in-Montana energy, not more made in the Middle-East energy. The very first item I listed on my to-do list for President Trump was to roll back the EPA’s power plan. I’ve been assured will see movement imminently.

It’s a simple concept: Let Montana Energy Power America & power the world.

We will soon have a new Secretary of Energy, Texas Governor Rick Perry. Now, there’s a lot of differences between Montana and Texas…for starters, our beef is better and our cowboys are real and not just a football team.

Rick wasn’t surprised to hear the story of Evelyn Old Coyote, a 12-year-old girl from Montana’s Crow tribe who walked up to protestors in Billings who were holding signs saying “keep it in the ground…..and she quietly said to them, “if we keep it in the ground, my family will starve.” The protestors folded up their signs and drove home…

Rick Perry appreciates that Montana coal provides tax revenues of $145 million per year, which support our teachers and schools. He understands that - Coal keeps the lights on…and keeps state budgets balanced!

Natural resources are criticalto Montana’s economy. But, as you know, our state’s number one industry is agriculture. It’s important that we support the next generation of Montana farmers and ranchers by passing tax reform that kills the death tax once and for all.

On behalf of farmers and ranchers, I’m excited to serveon the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture.

I’m also pleased to announce that at the end of May, I’ll be co-hosting a Montana Ag Summit in Great Falls. –.

Last May, I led a group of Senators and Congressmen to China determined to open the China market to US Beef. China is the second largest beef import market in the world.

During my discussion with Chinese leaders, the first topic I raised was China’s ban on U.S. beef imports.

Fortunately they listened and shortly after my visit, Montana ranchers received the good news that China would end the ban on U.S. beef imports for the first time since 2003.

Montana’s farmers and ranchers know that with 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the U.S., access to foreign markets is essential.

This is something our new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and I discussed when we met in my office in January. He will put American jobs ahead of academic hand-wringing about being politically correct. Here in Montana, we call that horse sense. –

As you can see, we are looking at a new Administration that believes that Montanans understand better than bureaucrats in Washington, how to develop our natural resources and protect and preserve our public lands.

Montanans can do a better job than D.C. bureaucrats who’ve never driven a pick-up and have a hard time finding Montana on a map.

Today, there are two million acres of public lands in Montana inaccessible to the public. Let’s be clear – our public lands are not for sale….and Montanans should not be locked out of their public lands.

Speaking of being locked out… I was speaking to a group of Montana sawmill operators about the lack of timber supply….and how ironic … they were telling me of having to haul timber from other states hundreds of miles away to keep their mills operating, we were staring at mountain sides covered with timber. Litigation against commonsense timber projects is having far-reaching, damaging impacts on Montana jobs, Montana schools, forest health, access to recreation, and our watersheds. We need Montana solutions that increase active management of our ten national forests to get more logs to our mills and get Montanans back to work, and revenues to our counties Lincoln County is the proud home of the Libby Loggers but now they could change their mascot to the Libby Lawyers, because the logging industry is gone in Lincoln County.

It’s time to stop the extremists who litigate timber projects….and put our loggers and mill operators back to work – and let Montanans run Montana!

And there is no better example of judicial activism then the 9th Circuit. And, when the Supreme Court decides to hear a case from the 9th Circuit, the Supreme Court overrules this court 80 percent of the time. The 9th Circuit, dominated by California, has 85 percent more people in it than the next most populated Circuit Court. We need to get Montana out of the 9th Circuit into a new 12th Circuit that will cover the Mountain West and Alaska and even out the caseload. I’ve introduced legislation to do just that.

Another challenge that we face is judges who legislate from the bench. This is why I’m pleased with the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Over his career, Judge Gorsuch has displayed the temperament and approach that befits a Supreme Court Justice. Judge Gorsuch has a clear understanding that the third, co-equal, separate branch of our government is there to be an umpire, not a player on the field.

I’m also very proud of the important role Malmstrom and the Montana Air National Guard plays in keeping our nation safe and secure. I’m humbled by their character, dedication and determination to their mission. And the threats we face today are great. Threats like North Korea who is believed to have missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles. Or Iran, who test launched two ballistic missiles with “Israel Must be Wiped Out”, written in Hebrew on the side of the missile. And over the last 15 months, we have seen radical Islamic extremist attacks on the homeland in places like San Bernardino and Orlando.

President Reagan had it right with his peace through strength strategy. ICBM’s serve as a critical deterrent, to protect our nation and the world, and I’m thankful every day for the men and women who serve us in Great Falls.

And we need to ensure that when service members retire, they receive the care and benefits that were promised to them upon enlisting. Major change needs to happen in the VA – just ask any veteran that’s had their credit score impacted by the failure to get their medical bills reimbursed in time.

When I met with the new Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Secretary David Shulkin I invited him to Montana to hear first hand from our veterans, and made it clear to him we have a long to-do list to work on behalf of our veterans.

When I spoke to you in 2013, the US was $16 trillion dollars in debt. Today our federal debt is $20 trillion, current projections show this debt will increase by another $10 trillion over the next 10 years. Enough is enough. Admiral Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “Our national debt is our biggest national threat.”

I’ve spent 28 years of my life in business and know that if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. We need to bring that same accountability to Washington, D.C.

In fact, the first bill I introduced to Congress was the Balanced Budget Accountability Act. It’s not that complicated. It’s easy to measure. It’s very simple – no balanced budget, no paycheck for Members of Congress. Solutions like this are common sense. I know our country’d be better off if Montanans ran Washington, DC!

Seven years ago, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama jammed a bill through Congress called the Affordable Care Act, which proved to be anything but.

They said trust us, this 2700 page bill….nearly twice as long as War and Peace… will be wonderful for everyone and dismissed concerns about cost and access. In fact, Nancy Pelosi even said “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” – only in Washington DC would that make sense.

They promised with Obamacare that we could keep the health plans that we liked. Well, that didn’t turn out to be true. In fact there are 4.7 million American's who have been kicked off their health care plans by Obamacare.

They promised us Obamacare would lower health care costs. Well that didn’t turn out to be true, either. We’ve witnessed premiums skyrocket since Obamacare’s implementation. In Montana, families are seeing insurance hikes that average between 27 and 58 percent in 2017alone

They promised Obamacare would create more competition in the marketplace. But today Americans in one-third of the counties across our country are down to one company to choose from.

No matter who won the election in November –Obamacare is in a death spiral, and it was going to have to be addressed by Congress. To this day we are still seeing insurance companies leave the exchange because they just can’t afford to stay in. Just last Tuesday Humana was the latest to leave the Obamcare exchange.

Obamacare’s failure is an example of the core premise that Washington knows better than all of you.

It is straight from the big government, Washington-knows-best playbook.

As Obamacare repeal and replace moves forward, we are already hearing the scare tactics from the other side.

So as this process moves forward, Montanans should be asking whether their elected officials are working to bring Montana solutions forward or just trying to scare people yet again. Obamacare has failed. The law is getting worse and letting it go as is, would hurt Montana families even more.

It is time to return the decision making authority back to the states, and we’re going to do that when we repeal and replace Obamacare. It is time to let Montanans run Montana.

This past year, Cindy and I spent time in the Beartooth Wilderness with our children…and our two mini-aussies Ruby and Reagan…34 miles on horseback and 31 miles on foot…Golden Trout.. Cutthroats. This past fall I watched Cindy shoot her first antelope, deer and elk. My sweetheart is a darn good shot.

And it was yet another reminder of how special Montana is and how lucky we are to live here.

At RightNow Technologies, a start-up software company in Bozeman where I worked for 12 years, our hiring website was

The quality of life we have here in Montana, our fishing, hunting, camping, our national parks and our other public lands allow us to attract and retain the best workforce in the world.

Oracle which acquired RightNow Technologies in 2012 – is now one of the the largest cloud computing companies in the world.

I believe we will continue to see Montana rise as a global leader in innovation and high tech job growth.

You see, what the rest of the world is starting to realize is that in Montana, you can have it all - a quality of life and a quality education second to none…and I say that as a product of the Montana public schools and public university… …all four of our children will graduate from public universities…three from MSU…. because in Montana we combine a quality education, a quality of life…and connectivity…. and this is a recipe for success and uniquely positions Montana to be a 21st century high tech leader.

As I close, I wanted to take a moment to reemphasize that no matter where you come from or who you voted for, my job is to represent ALL Montanans. The office I hold belongs to the 1,032,949 residents of the Treasure State, of which all of us here represent.

We are not here to be served… but to serve.

And speaking of service, I’m proud of the 9 veterans who serve on my team, to serve you

And our team is working to change the culture in Washington DC…. to an attitude of service – customer service. As the only member of the Montana delegation to visit each one of our 56 counties – Eureka to Ekalaka – visiting our schools, hospitals, small businesses, ranches, windfarms, coal mines, national parks - I could go on and on. I’m honored to listen to folks all around Montana. And I’m grateful for their gracious hospitality.

We use technology to reach as many Montanans as possible to learn what’s on their minds. Over the past couple of years we have dialed out to one million numbers across Montana, as I regularly hold tele-townhalls. In fact I held one last week, where I dialed out to 200,000 Montanans and had tens of thousands folks stay on to listen and ask questions. And I’ll be hosting another next month. If interested just text senatordaines (one word) to 828282, and you will receive a confirmation text that you have joined.

Well….Sometimes in the midst of our busy lives, we can lose perspective.

We must never forget that we are some of the luckiest people in the world because we get to call Montana HOME.

We get to live in the best state…. That is part of the greatest country in the world.

And together, we can ensure that 12 year old, Evelyn Old Coyote’s voice is heard in Washington DC.

Together, we can make sure that Kennedy Tooke and her friends in Ekalaka and every Montana student has the opportunity to succeed.

The solutions to our challenges are not more Washington ideas, not more Washington knows best. The best solutions will come from the people of Montana.

Thank you again for the work you’re doing on behalf of all Montanan’s. I look forward to working with all of you and you know why?..... because Montanans are best at running Montana.

Thank you and God Bless!


Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information
Related Content