Montana State of the State Address 2003

Following is the full text of Montana Gov. Judy Martz's State of the State speech, delivered January 21, 2003.

Thank you very much. President Keenan, Speaker Mood, Lt. Governor Ohs, Tribal Chairmen, Distinguished members of the House and Senate, fellow elected officials, honored guests, my fellow Montanans:

What an honor and privilege it is to address you tonight to discuss our administration's continued commitment to strong families, faith in each other, freedom for all, and a prosperous future.

We are in a dynamic and changing time.

While our nation experiences the continued challenges of an economic recession... Montana is moving forward.

Granted, we have our differences and problems to solve. It's that diversity that makes us strong. But first and foremost, we have much to be thankful for.

I am so thankful for family. Montana's first family - Harry, Justin, Stacey, my mom and dad in Billings, and my brother Joe, who has joined me here this evening. I'm thankful for friends, neighbors and our fellow Montanans.

We are so blessed in this Montana with a strong work ethic and resilience demonstrated by our dedicated public servants.

We are blessed with great teachers, whose hard work ensures that our children receive an outstanding education, and our public and private schools of higher education are recognized for their cutting edge research and programs.

We are blessed with quality medical care for our citizens.

We are blessed with outstanding military personnel, police, EMT's, fire fighters and others who work every single day to keep us safe and protect our freedom at home and abroad. To all these men and women, we extend a very special thanks.

We are blessed with great athletes like our Cats and our Griz, who are among the best in the country and... our Fighting Saints are Number One! Finally, and most importantly, we have a great faith in each other.

Are we blessed? You bet we are. Because we're Montanans... first, most and always.

We are gathered in this chamber as representatives of the people.

And while we come with different ideas and different views, I have faith that we will find the common ground and build a better future for our Montana families.

That is what the people expect of us. We owe it to them and ourselves.

Our job is to find solutions not place blame.

We are faced with a daunting task. But I have faith that we will prevail... because, no matter our differences, we are all Montanans.

Despite the budget clouds we face together, there are brighter days in the forecast.

[State of the Economy]

For example, Montana's unemployment rate stood at only 4.4% in November well below the national average of six percent and the lowest for a November in 30 years. And wages rose over 4% - nearly double the rate of inflation.

Job growth in Montana is well ahead of the national economy. In fact, 9,000 new jobs were created in the state since November of 2001. And, according to, we now rank 4th nationally in projected job growth.

Even when faced with our budget difficulties, Montana's economy as a whole reflects our character to persevere. We will move our economy forward. We're making progress... and why?

Because we have a workforce that is prepared for the jobs of the future.

Because we have the foresight and the commitment of individuals in this room who know that we need to create an environment for business to grow and for individuals to prosper.

Because we have a can-do attitude. Montanans can beat the odds... and turn that attitude into action.

And we must do more.

Because, when it comes to our economy, good enough' is never enough. Our unemployment rate may well be only 4.4%, but for those who are unemployed it is still 100%.

And many Montanans are still underemployed. These are highly skilled workers, available and ready for good jobs. But we need the jobs here that match those skills.

Because Montanans are what makes Montana great.

So, on their behalf, just as Lewis and Clark began their journey 200 years ago, together, let us take this legislative journey confident that our state will be better for the efforts we undertake today.

And if the past is any indication... the ingenuity, strength, and fortitude of Montanans will ensure that our future is bright.

[Economic Development]

When I talked about the state of our state two years ago, I told you that government can no longer be a barrier to business, and since then, we have put the full force of my office behind ensuring that businesses are not hindered, but instead assisted by their government.

With your support, we reorganized the Department of Commerce to be more business friendly, and with your support, we created the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity.

With the framework for change in place, we are creating the government environment necessary for businesses to stay and grow here... because government doesn't create jobs, people do.

We've teamed up with State Auditor John Morrison to encourage more venture capital investment in our state.

We redesigned our business website,, to provide critical information to the business community... and through you can register your business through Secretary of State Bob Brown's office, and file your taxes with the Department of Revenue.

Why is this important? Because, in this era of dramatic change and e-commerce, information must be readily available.

This technology eliminates the barriers of time and distance; and draws us even further into the world economy. And our global opportunities are expanded through the work of our state trade representatives in Japan and Taiwan.

Companies like Smith Equipment of Belgrade and MSE Technologies of Butte, have grown their businesses with the expertise of these professionals.

And, along with Senator Jon Tester and others, companies like Timeless Seeds of Conrad are marketing organic ag products to our Pacific Rim neighbors as well, and have established Montana as the premier source for those goods.

We have a wonderful relationship with our neighbors in Taiwan, and we are honored to have with us this evening Jack Chiang, who is the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Affairs Office in Seattle. Please welcome Mr. Chiang.

Another element of economic progress is tourism. Out-of-state travelers add nearly million dollars per day to our state's economy.

That's powerful economic activity.

I want to thank those Montanans involved with tourism and recreation who had the foresight to plan ahead and identify efforts to improve Montana's economy.

Our economic development efforts are sharply focused, and we have outlined major initiatives for our state in the coming years.

These initiatives are built on hard work not quick fixes. They are crafted with an eye toward what Montana should look like in two decades... not just two years.

With your support, we will move Montana's economy forward.

First, we'll focus our economic improvement resources on those industries that bring a competitive advantage to our great state.

We'll provide our citizens with the training needed to be even more productive workers, earning higher wages.

We'll focus on strengthening relationships between private industry, the university system and government to meet the needs of our business community.

And, we must create a competitive tax and regulatory structure to ensure Montana businesses remain here and grow, because as businesses prosper... Montana prospers.

In order to accomplish these goals, I ask you to pass four bills.

The first, requested by Senator Royal Johnson and presented by Representative Monica Lindeen, will enhance the ability of businesses to fund work-force training.

Senate Bill 115, sponsored by Senator Dale Mahlum, will extend the statutory appropriation for key economic development programs.

Senate Bill 131, sponsored by Senator Greg Barkus, provides better access to the dollars needed for businesses to expand by allowing the Board of Investments to better support local economic development organization and local revolving loan programs.

And House Bill 76, sponsored by Representative Joe McKenney, helps state and local governments create a truly regional approach to job growth.

Montana is a state in transition. But transition does not mean we leave behind the industries that brought us here.

Transition means transformation. We are transforming our traditional industries to a new economic model, a model that is built on the creativity of our people and the responsible use of the resources God gave us.

And, we are attracting new partners. Partners who seek a location with a quality workforce, good schools, safe communities, affordable energy, efficient government and quality medical care.

One of those businesses is Anheuser Busch. They have made a commitment to provide top quality barley for their products and thanks to the concerted efforts of state and local governments, they are now sourcing that barley in Sidney.

And there are others.

Companies like Montana Flour and Grains in Choteau, John R. Daily in Missoula, and Western Sugar in Billings are providing quality jobs as well.

As we support existing businesses, we also welcome new ones. Companies such as the Montana Shepherd's Market in Hamilton, Montana Legend Brand Meats in Roscoe, and Montana Natural Lamb in Reedpoint are joining with us to develop innovative value-added ventures all across Montana.

These businesses not only process the fruits of our land, but the products of our peoples' hard work as well.

And, tonight, after more than a year of work by a new business to Montana, in coordination with the Montana Department of Agriculture; the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity; the Departments of Commerce; Natural Resources; Environmental Quality; Transportation; Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and local economic development groups, the City of Great Falls, Cascade County and our office, I'm excited to announce that Froedtert Malt, a Division of International Malting Company, LLC has made the decision to locate a malt facility in Great Falls, Montana!

This is a $75 million project with a 16 million bushel capacity. The facility will have an annual impact of $64 million to the state's ag economy, bringing good-paying jobs to Great Falls, Montana.

Please join me in welcoming David Brunette, the company's director of manufacturing operations, and in thanking International Malting Company for choosing Great Falls as their business home.

The commitment of the community, and state and local government to this project truly shows that hard work and cooperation pays off for the citizens of our great state.

[Natural Resources]

And, as we work to strengthen our economy, we will continue to support our traditional industries - those that support our logging and mining families, our farmers and ranchers.

We WILL NOT forget the industries that built this state, and we are working closely with President Bush to bring common sense back to forest management.

We must manage our forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires. We will achieve that goal by giving the right tools to the forest managers and private businesses.

In the process, we will bring back good logging jobs to communities like Hamilton and Stevensville, Seeley Lake and Frenchtown.

As chair of the Western Governors Association, I am bringing a Healthy Forest Summit to Montana in June. Western governors will come together to focus on a path we should take to improve the health of our forests and the health of our communities.

We must also be a part of our nation's energy solutions, and we are actively seeking ways to utilize our resources in an environmentally responsible manner.

I support the responsible development of coal bed natural gas, and I am confident that all stakeholders will work together to ensure that it's done right.

In the last year, we have seen plans to develop power plants in Great Falls, Butte and Roundup that will create jobs, and provide additional energy to Montana and our country.

We also received the patent to the Otter Creek Tracts that are a source of quality coal. I have established an internal working group to address the issues and opportunities surrounding coal development on those tracts, while maximizing revenues for our school children from their responsible development.

Two years ago, plans were in motion to ban all snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park. Since then, we have worked with the Bush Administration to allow cleaner, quieter snowmobiles back in the Park, so we can all experience the beauty of this national treasure in its winter splendor while protecting its incredible resources.

[Tax Reform]

As we continue to make room for both traditional businesses and the companies of a new economy, we must recognize that our current tax structure overly burdens both.

Two years ago, I said we would work to make Montana's tax structure conducive to job growth and economic success. Tonight I am asking for your passage of our tax reform proposal that restructures our tax policy and lets our visitors pay their share.

As you know, Montana has one of the highest capital gains tax rates and the highest stated income tax rate in the nation. Our plan reduces capital gains rates, encouraging more investment in Montana.

Our plan reduces personal income taxes by an average of 10 percent for all classes of Montana taxpayers, so hardworking families can keep more of what they earn.

New Mexico's new governor - Democrat Bill Richardson - is calling for cuts to their 8.2% income tax rate, saying it's too high. If their 8.2 is too high, what does that say about our 11 percent?

We will offset those tax reductions with a limited tax on certain items that will be paid in part by Montanans, but to a large degree by nonresidents, who enjoy the treasures of our great state.

Our plan also includes a voter-approved local-option tax to help communities relieve the property tax burden on local residents, and to provide opportunities for local economic development.

As we address this plan, we will work with you to help mitigate the effects of property tax reappraisal for our Montana families.

I stand firm in my resolve. I want permanent tax reform that creates an environment for higher-paying jobs that will be a welcome relief for Montanans. We rank 46th in per capita income, and if we don't reform our tax structure we will still be there... or lower... a decade from now. That is simply not acceptable.

Our plan welcomes and keeps businesses here, rather than shutting the doors to growth. It provides opportunities for investment, rather than taking money from our small employers, investors, ranchers and farmers and entrepreneurs, because when they succeed, Montana succeeds.

[Higher Education]

But even with tax reform, economic development does not happen without a quality workforce. Montana's University system is a critical part of creating a high quality workforce.

I would like to welcome Carrol Krause as the interim commissioner of Higher Education, and thank former state representative Lila Taylor for agreeing to serve on the board of regents. Lila's strong background in our state's largest industry agriculture will be a welcome addition to the Board.

I have faith that, with their guidance and that of the other regents, we will strengthen our future workforce and our future leaders.

And, we will continue to transfer technology from the University System to businesses that create the jobs.

Our quality educational system is improving our workforce; and technology is compressing the miles, enabling Montana companies to do business globally.

[K-12 Public Education]

At the same time, we must do everything possible to maintain a quality K-12 education system for our children.

Education is and always will be a top priority for me and our administration. I have faith that we can work together to preserve and strengthen Montana's excellent education system.

Lt. Governor Karl Ohs has been our administration's leader on education issues. Karl, thank you for your work on behalf of our state's children.

Two years ago, I asked the legislature to focus on the 3-R's recruiting, retaining and rewarding our outstanding teachers. There is no greater profession than the education of our children, and no greater gift an individual can give than to positively impact the life of a child. Let's all applaud our state's teachers for the job they do.

We must encourage the best and brightest teachers to stay here. We have partnered with School Superintendent Linda McCulloch to bring forward legislation to help repay student loans for new teachers who choose to make Montana home.

Representative Alan Olson's House Bill 107 does just that, serving as a vehicle to help new teachers like Jody Magerius, who was born and raised in Conrad, to stay home, rather than seeking a position in another state.

Please join me in welcoming Jody, and seeing that she stays here in Montana.

I thank the House of Representatives for acting quickly on this legislation, and I urge the Senate to do likewise.

We can also retain our talented teachers by addressing the rising costs of healthcare.

On behalf of educators in Montana, I urge you to send me HB 302, sponsored by Representative Dave Lewis and developed in partnership with the education community. This legislation creates a statewide teachers' insurance pool to keep costs down for our schools.

When it comes to our schools, dollars alone don't always make the difference.

Funding is important, and so is funding reform. I ask you to pass legislation sponsored by Representative Roy Brown to help ensure that schools faced with declining enrollments don't sacrifice a quality education to meet their fixed costs.

I am also asking you to pass legislation confirming your support for a school renewal commission. My office will sponsor this commission jointly with the Board of Public Education. This group will be charged with offering substantive solutions to the next legislature on every way schools operate, building on prior studies to get the job done for Montana students.

Please join me in thanking the Board's chair, Dr. Kirk Miller, and all board members for their dedication to students, parents and educators all across Montana.

Our children are the future of this state, and I want to thank the legislative leadership for placing such a high priority on K-12 education that you have restored funding to my budget levels... because we will accept nothing less.

We also need the help of our students in teaching one another. That is why I'm pleased that, with the partnership of student leaders, we will hold a Youth Tobacco Prevention Summit in Helena this spring. Working together, we will ensure a tobacco-free graduating high school class by 2015.

[Substance Abuse] But, as we all know, substance abuse spreads far beyond our children, and affects the lives of all too many Montana families.

Every day, we read and hear of tragic stories involving the use of methamphetamines and other drugs. I support Senator Mike Cooney's legislation to toughen our meth laws and protect our children.

In partnership with Attorney General Mike McGrath, we formed the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Control Policy Task Force under the leadership and guidance of Senator Duane Grimes.

Their creative and unique ideas have set the stage for a proactive approach to reducing substance abuse in Montana.

We can all agree that the safety and health of our Montana families is too important for partisanship.

That is why I'm asking you to pass House Bill 195, sponsored by Representative Cindy Younkin, which strengthens DUI repeat offender penalties. I also urge your support for Senate Bill 13, the .08 legislation and Senate Bill 39, which places open container laws on the books, both of which are sponsored by Senator Dale Mahlum.

These bills toughen Montana's drunk driving laws, with the goal of ensuring that our roads are safer for Montana families and visitors.

We simply must stop the unnecessary loss of lives on our roadways.


We can all agree that Montana families deserve an unsurpassed quality of life. We must prioritize health and human service needs, funding what impacts peoples' lives the most. We must maximize the use of federal funding and address rising healthcare costs.

As we work to address health care needs, I ask for your consideration of legislation to implement a senior discount prescription plan in Montana.

We must also address the wise use of our Medicaid dollars. That is why I am creating a Medicaid Reform Commission, to be headed by Dr. Peter Blouke to address growing needs and escalating health care costs.

We simply must not falter in our efforts to make health care more affordable for Montana families, and to provide for those most in need.

Our efforts must also extend to those with mental illnesses. Our budget addresses the need for more community-based programs for the mentally ill by limiting the population at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs, and creating three regional programs.

In addition to these healthcare issues, our hospitals and clinics are faced with other tough challenges, not the least of which is the shortage of qualified healthcare workers.

I established a task force to address those shortages, and in response to their recommendations, I have committed $120,000 of federal money to partner with Superintendent McCulloch to provide a healthcare career specialist in her office. OPI will also provide $30,000 of federal money over the next three years, and we are asking private industry to support this effort as well.


We have worked hard to find ways to make government operate more efficiently on limited dollars, while protecting the safety of our citizens.

In order to address budget challenges in the Department of Corrections, for example, we initiated a supervised release program for those who have been committed to the Department of Corrections by the court system. We set in place a system of checks and balances before implementing this program and it's working. To date, our return rate is only 7% - much lower than the normal rate of 36%.

[Milltown Dam]

As we care for our people, we must also care for our land. The ways to address our environmental challenges need not be difficult.

The health of our families, and communities; the health of our environment and our wildlife these must come first. That is why tonight, I am announcing that I am placing the full support of my office behind removal of the Milltown Dam at Bonner. It's simply the right thing to do.

At the same time, I will continue to press Arco, Northwestern and the Environmental Protection Agency, to ensure that the needs of the local community are met.

[Native Americans]

In this great state, there are few who have more of the historical background about how fragile our landscape is than our first Montanans.

In the past two years, I have traveled to and met with all tribes located in our state's borders to ensure that their voices are heard, and that we work together.

I involved tribal representatives as we addressed our healthcare budget challenges.

And, tonight, we are announcing a new award. The Governor's Award For Excellence in Cultural Education, to be presented annually to the school that best captures the spirit and intent of the Indian Education For All Act of 1999.

Our students must learn as much as possible about the cultural background of their friends and neighbors, and every student needs to know how proud we are of our diversity.


I have faith that everything I have outlined tonight is achievable, based on our combined will and fortitude, and taking into consideration our current budget challenges.

I will do everything in my power to work with each of you and I am confident that you will do the same, because we all have the same vision for our state one that includes family, faith, freedom and a prosperous future for all Montanans.

President George W. Bush once said, "A budget's impact is counted in dollars, but measured in lives."

Excellent schools, quality healthcare, higher-paying jobs, a clean environment, and the rich diversity of our people are the values we must fight to protect in this tough budget cycle.

When times are tough, we must care first for those most in need. That is why we have proposed a $93 million one-time transfer from the coal trust fund.

We cannot cut so deep that we cut programs like CHIP, which provides healthcare coverage for over 9,000 Montana children, and we must maintain funding for foster care programs, including tribal contracts. When times are tough, we must first care for those most in need.

That is why I have asked that funding for the breast and cervical cancer treatment program, the Montana Chemical Dependency Center, Medicaid pharmacy benefits for the medically needy, and services for children with developmental disabilities... be held intact, and that we fund provider rates to the best of our ability.

My education budget is also consistent with a balanced view of all services provided and needs in the state.

Again... all of these education and human services programs are made possible by a one-time transfer of $93 million from the coal trust fund.

And, just so it's clear, in conversations with the two national bond rating agencies, Standard & Poor's and Moody's, we've been informed that our coal trust proposal will not affect our bond rating.

Montanans support this proposal, and I ask that each of you look deep inside and ask is this not the right time to make the philosophical leap to help our fellow Montanans in need through these difficult times?

After hours of study and discussion throughout the state, we are confident that this proposal will serve Montanans well.

The budget I'm presenting includes a combination of increased revenue projections, fund transfers and reductions in spending with no tax increase on hardworking Montana families, many of whom cannot even afford insurance, let alone pay higher taxes.

But, let me add that nothing is off the table. Just as I am asking all of you to address the coal trust fund transfer, I will look closely at every idea that you bring forward. I am confident that, at the end of the day, we will come to a solution that is best for the people we serve.


Much has been entrusted to us, and much is expected.

Let us reach across the aisle and do what is best for all Montanans. Let's cooperate.

Everyone has a role to play... because everyone is a member of our Montana family. We all stand to gain... or we all stand to lose.

Let us not be afraid to lead from our hearts.

In early December, I was in Butte and met a 5-year-old boy by the name of Dyllan Lane. As he was walking away with his mother, I heard him say, Mom I just met the Gardener.'

I laughed... and then I thought you know, he's right. I am a gardener truly, we are all gardeners. It is our job to nurture and grow our economy. It is our job to prepare the soil and plant the seeds for future generations, and it is our job to care for all Montanans.

From all corners of this great state, our growth depends on our ability to work together. What we sow today is the future that we will harvest tomorrow. We are growing together from Sidney to Eureka, from Hamilton to Wolf Point, and we are doing so with heart and resolve.

But, what is the heart of Montana? Is it our way of life? Is it our love of family, freedom, or our faith in one another? Is it our dreams of a prosperous future for our children?

It is all of these. But the real heart of Montana is its people.

The agenda I have set before you tonight is worthy of the people of our great state, and worthy of our best combined efforts.

Together we will forge our own future our own destiny. We must forge it with the hope that... just as today we recognize the valiant journey of Lewis and Clark 200 years from now, we will be remembered for our dedication to this journey as well.

Thank you, good evening, and may God Bless the great state of Montana.
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