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On Thursday, Nov. 15, I released my budget proposal for the 2019 legislative session that ensures fiscal responsibility, invests in education, protects health care for Montanans, creates jobs and builds Montana’s infrastructure.

This budget is a reflection of the values we hold as Montanans. It is a reflection of the progress we’ve made as a state these past few years and seeks to maintain and build upon that progress.

Once again, I have proposed a balanced budget that leaves a $300 million reserve for a rainy day and modernizes our revenue to reflect Montana’s growing economy. Montanans understand the importance of leaving money in the bank for unexpected things that might come our way. It’s not just good policy, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. I call upon the 2019 Legislature to ensure this fiscal responsibility and not spend more than we take in.

My budget also makes meaningful investments in education by enhancing the progress we’ve made with affordable, high-quality preschool options in rural and urban communities, freezing college tuition and creating a need based financial aid program for college students, including returning adult learners.

For Montana to continue to have a healthy economy, we need to have healthy communities. That is why my budget continues the bipartisan HELP Act that expanded Medicaid coverage to nearly 100,000 hard-working Montanans.

The HELP Act brought Montana’s uninsured rate down from 20 percent to 7 percent and reduced uncompensated care by 50 percent — helping keep our rural hospital doors open. Additionally, the HELP Act has created over 5,000 new jobs and infuses $500 million in new dollars into the state’s economy each year. Medicaid coverage is too important to Montana’s economy and the health of our communities to allow it to end.

Montana’s continued economic growth and job creation depends on our investments in the state’s infrastructure. My infrastructure proposal is financed through a responsible mix of cash and bonds, with a majority of the investments going towards drinking water, wastewater, sewer systems, sold waste disposal, and bridges in local communities throughout the state. My proposal also includes investments that will increase access to broadband and a grant program for natural resources communities impacted by fossil fuel development.

I’m optimistic about the upcoming legislative session and that Montana can still be a shining example for the country of how our political system is supposed to work. Since my time in office, we’ve demonstrated that government works for the people of our state. Our growing economy, continuing investments in education and job creation, and a thriving middle-class are proof of our bipartisan accomplishments.

I expect the legislature to work with me, on what at their core, should not be partisan issues when it comes to our budget. Montanans are best served when we work together, regardless of political party, on a budget that is not only balanced, but also funds essential services Montanans expect.

Thanks again for your support, and I look forward to working on your behalf in the upcoming 2019 Legislative Session.

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Steve Bullock is serving his second term as governor of Montana. 

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