U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte told the state House he wants to see Montana take a cue from the federal government and cut taxes and abolish regulations to expand the state's economy.
"Imagine if Montana took a page from our national pro-growth playbook," Gianforte said in an address to lawmakers Monday. U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, the other members of the state's congressional delegation, had previously addressed the Legislature.
Gianforte, a Republican, called for the government to "get out of the way so all Montanans and Americans can prosper again."
"Government does not create prosperity, the private sector does," Gianforte said. "Government should and must create an environment where businesses can grow and thrive."
Much as he did during his election to Montana's lone U.S. House seat last fall, Gianforte touted the tax cuts Republicans passed at the federal level in 2017, which also doubled the child tax credit.
Gianforte said the cuts have helped families, referencing a single mother in Helena who saw an additional $400 a month in her paychecks.
"That's more money for that family for clothes, for food, for books and toys. And it makes a difference for that single mom between having a car that works and one that didn't work. That's important, and it's certainly not crumbs," Gianforte said.
Gianforte also said Montana businesses have invested savings from the tax cuts, including Billings Flying Services, which updated its equipment.
The new farm bill also has "Montana's fingerprints on it," Gianforte said.
That includes an amendment from Gianforte that he said empowers county governments to manage federal forests. The Good Neighbor Authority lets counties enter into agreements to perform forest management services on National Forest lands. Before only states could.
Gianforte also said job growth in Montana is strong and the unemployment rate in the state is low, but there's room to improve low wages and help businesses that struggle to find qualified workers. He called for more apprenticeship programs and other educational opportunities outside of a four-year college degree.
"We should promote trades education so that Montanans have more options to succeed," Gianforte said.
Citing his own success in the technology sector in Bozeman, where he started RightNow Technologies and later sold to to Oracle for $1.8 billion, Gianforte said the state needs to encourage entrepreneurship and adding tech jobs.
To continue growth, Gianforte said, both Montana and the federal government need to continue to roll back regulations and enact tax reforms.
Red tape can stand in the way of infrastructure work, Gianforte said, adding that he wants to focus on broadband development around the state.
Gianforte said charitable organizations in the state should be providing a hand up to people who are struggling, saying neighbors in Montana help neighbors.
"While we should focus on growing opportunity here in Montana, we also must take care of the most vulnerable among us. As a society it's our moral obligation," Gianforte said. "A strong economy gives us the ability to fulfill that obligation."
Gianforte said lawmakers must ensure a strong safety net is in place for those who need it most.
"We must make sure those who are able secure the dignity of work and enjoy the fulfillment that comes from working alongside others and being self-sufficient," Gianforte said.
The same day Gianforte gave his address, a Democratic lawmaker from Bozeman who briefly sought to challenge Gianforte in 2018, introduced legislation to increase the penalties for assaulting a working journalist. Gianforte was convicted of a misdemeanor for assaulting a reporter for the Guardian newspaper on the eve of his election to Congress in 2017 during a special election.