A public education is the great equalizer. Give a kid a solid foundation, and he or she can do amazing things. Governor Bullock has been fighting to fund education from the beginning, and I’m proud to support the fight for Early Education in Montana. The data is in about early education: better performance through high school, fewer kids getting into trouble, greater contributions to society after completing school. Montana has also fallen behind in supporting higher education. At the same time we see headlines showing declining enrollment at our flagship university, our Legislature is cutting funding. We need more investment in education, not less, and I will fight to restore funding for all our students.
Montana’s history and heritage is found in its public lands. Getting out into the woods has a way of reconnecting us with what’s important. That’s why I have sponsored and supported legislation that preserves and protects our public lands. We need more access to our forests and streams, and we can create more opportunities to recreate by investing in easements and access sites. I sponsored a bill to protect the headwaters of the Smith River, because we can’t risk polluting one of the best fishing streams in the world for a few years of profits for out-of-state corporations. I will continue to fight for public lands. They are the birthright of every Montanan, and we owe it to future generations to preserve our heritage.
Out of state businesses should not get the same tax breaks that home-grown businesses get. That’s why I supported the water’s edge tax bill that would have increased the share that out of state corporations have to pay. There’s no good reason that a company that pulls its Montana-made profits out of our state should get a tax break. If you want to invest in Montana, then you should get all the help we can provide. We can invest in small business through apprenticeships, as well. While trades have always been an opportunity for young people to participate in apprenticeships, we can open up opportunities for other careers, too. We can kick start careers as EMTs, nurses, and other health care professions. A healthy and diverse apprenticeship program will help create opportunities throughout Montana.
Montana does not take care of the people that take care of us. When the call comes in to the fire station, firefighters don’t debate about answering. They show up. It is time for us to show up for them. Last session, a bill to protect firefighters who get sick from doing their jobs failed to pass. I was proud to attend the International Association of Fire Fighters convention last January. I learned how firefighters get sick from exposure to toxic fumes and what we as lawmakers can do to protect them. Next session, I will support a bill that finally covers firefighters who contract rare forms of disease that comes from saving property and lives. It is high time that we cover these heroes under our Worker Compensation laws, and I will fight to get it done.
The outdoor recreation economy is the undisputed king of Montana. We have millions of visitors every year – people who visit to fish our streams, hunt our forests, and recreate on our public lands. Montana’s outdoor economy creates over 70,000 jobs, generates $286 million in state and local revenue, and adds over $7 billion in consumer spending. While Congress sits on its hands, we can do something to encourage the outdoor economy in Montana. Preserving access to public land and maintaining habitat for fish and wildlife are vital to economic growth. By encouraging outdoor recreation, we are preserving our future.