Montana State Republican Party
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Helena, MT- Chairman Jeff Essmann of the Montana Republican Party expressed his sorrow at the news that former Senator Conrad Burns passed away Thursday afternoon:

“Conrad loved his adopted home state of Montana and Montana Republicans loved him and his wonderful wife Phyllis. When talking about Montana, Conrad always said he got here as fast as he could. We will miss him deeply now that he is no longer with us.”

“Senator Burns was very committed to the success of Montana and its people. He was a colorful figure who loved people, politics, and to serve. He brought a common man, common sense approach to his work in the Senate and returned to his home in Billings when his work was done.”

“Conrad always worked to unite and strengthen the Montana Republican Party. The last time I saw him was just a couple of weeks ago at an event for all our statewide candidates, loyal right up to the end, supporting the cause. I offer my sincerest condolences to Phyllis and the Burns family. The thoughts of many Montanans are with them.”

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Governor Bullock had three and a half years to sign an infrastructure bill into law and he failed to get the job done. Now, Bullock announced a new infrastructure proposal today. Well, this comes too little too late. Bullock’s failed leadership is exactly why Montana hasn’t seen an infrastructure bill.

In 2013, Bullock VETOED a critical Infrastructure bill for Eastern Montana after the bill passed both chambers of the Legislature by wide bipartisan margins.

Two years later, Bullock pursued an all-or-nothing approach to address our critical infrastructure needs.

Bullock could have signed an infrastructure bill that was less focused on his pet projects in Helena but instead, he demanded Montana go into debt and remained adamant that all his pet projects were fully funded.

The Billings Gazette warned Bullock against taking Montana into debt to pay for our infrastructure needs:It makes more sense to avoid the cost of borrowing and use available cash to help address the urgent infrastructure needs.”

The Billings Gazette urged Bullock to support a fiscally responsible proposal: He needs to reach out to Republican and Democratic lawmakers to craft a fiscally responsible grant proposal that actually can pass the Legislature.”

Did Bullock listen? No. Montana had the cash-on-hand to pay for our critical infrastructure needs but he remained adamant Montana go into debt.

The stalwart-liberal ideologue George Ochenski blasted Bullock for his all-or-nothing approach: “That Bullock sought to abandon long-held legislative protocol with his “all-in-one” spending bill is a mystery in itself.”

Ochenski even called-out Bullock’s hypocrisy:It is disingenuous of Bullock to insist that these projects are vital to the state’s interest – so much so that they require $212 million in bonds – yet threaten to veto the bills containing them unless the legislature funds them through his single infrastructure spending bill.

Bullock’s the reason communities haven’t seen any infrastructure funding under his watch.  A Republican Governor will get the job done where Bullock has failed and sign an infrastructure bill into law. 

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Since taking office, Governor Bullock has failed to address the crisis facing Montana: The lack of high-paying jobs available to our kids and workers. Central to fixing this problem is providing tax relief and supporting measures that will help improve Montana’s business climate.

It’s no secret: Bullock is bad for business. Bullock repeatedly VETOED tax relief bills that would have put more money in the pockets of workers, families and small businesses and will NOT eliminate the business equipment tax.

You may have heard about Bullock’s empty gestures to bring Facebook, Google and PayPal to Montana. Well, it will never happen unless we improve our business climate.

In fact, Facebook has even said the problem with doing business in Montana is the business equipment tax. [1:34]

Greg Gianforte supports tax relief and wants to eliminate the business equipment tax to help Montana’s business climate and create high-paying jobs.

Greg knows what it takes to do business in Montana and create high-paying Montana jobs because he’s done it here. Greg founded a start-up in his home and grew it into Bozeman’s largest commercial employer– creating over 500 high-paying Montana jobs.

Meanwhile, Bullock has left a terrible mark on Montana:  Nationwide, Montana ranks almost last in good jobs available, we are the 7th worst state to make a living, income for millennials ranks lowest in the country, and we rank near dead last in salaries– 49th in the nation!

This is a crisis. It’s essential Montana reduce its tax burden if we want to attract employers, help small businesses grow, and create more high-paying jobs.

Montanans deserve a Republican Governor who understands what it takes for businesses to succeed and knows how to create high-paying Montana jobs.

Bullock VETOES Tax Relief Bills

SB 171 | Comprehensive tax reform that reduces and simplifies Montana’s tax rates from 7 to 2 brackets and eliminates special interest loopholes (2015)

SB 200 | Lowers state income tax rates for all Montanans and reduces the capital gains tax to help small businesses grow and create more high-paying Montana jobs (2015)

HB 166 | Lowers state income tax rates for all Montanans  (2015)

SB 282 | Comprehensive tax reform that reduces rates for all Montanans and eliminates special interest loopholes (2013)

SB 394 | Provide a one-time tax cut to all Montanans (2013)

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HELENA, MT – Chairman Jeff Essmann issued the following statement on the Montana Republican Party’s recent decision to dismiss the closed primary lawsuit:

The Executive Board of the Montana Republican Party, after much discussion and deliberation, passed a motion to direct Jim Brown, the attorney representing the State Party, to seek to dismiss the case challenging the constitutionality of the Montana open primary law.

The board’s decision was to dismiss the case without prejudice which would not prevent future legal review of the issue if a legislative resolution of the issue does not occur in the meantime,” said Chairman Essmann. “We hope that all parties to the matter will agree that there is no need for the expense of a trial to be incurred at this point.

Based on the prior rulings of the court denying the parties constitutional arguments, the attorney for the State Party and the attorney for the 10 County Republican Central Committees agreed that the likelihood of success at trial was low.

An important factor in the discussion was the presence of a similar case brought by the Hawaii Democrat Party challenging the Hawaii open primary law that is also pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Montana Republican Party will have the ability to file a supportive friend of the court brief as the Hawaii case proceeds.

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Montana greatly needs to improve our business climate if we are going to attract employers, help small businesses grow, and create high-paying Montana jobs. Without an improved business climate, Montanans will continue to see their kids leave home in search of better paying jobs and families will continue to struggle living paycheck to paycheck.

Montana needs a leader who can strengthen our economy with their experience growing small businesses and creating high-paying Montana jobs. Unfortunately, Montanans are stuck with Governor Bullock (until November). Bullock just isn’t up to the task of addressing the crisis Montana faces with our weak business climate and lack of high-paying jobs.

It’s time for new leadership in Helena. It’s time to elect a Governor who will put Montana first and finally address this crisis.

Montana’s Crisis: Weak Business Climate, Lack of High-Paying Jobs

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Denise Juneau brings Steny Hoyer– the number two in House Democrat leadership– to Montana today to celebrate her birthday in Bozeman. Denise Juneau is being sung Happy Birthday by an extreme liberal who has a ZERO percent rating from the NRA!

The last time Steny Hoyer was here in Montana he was raising money for John Lewis’ failed House run. At the fundraiser, Steny Hoyer revealed the Democrat playbook: Cover up the candidates’ anti-2nd Amendment agenda to win the election and then they will turn around and take away our right to keep and bear arms.

Steny Hoyer: “I’m not from Montana, I have a zero rating with the NRA, and I would not recommend that John use gun control as part of his campaign… But I will tell you …  if you have a Democrat in charge of the House of Representatives, those issues will have a shot.

Denise Juneau and Steny Hoyer’s Washington D.C. values have no place in Montana. Our elected officials swear an oath to defend and protect the Constitution– including the right to keep and bear arms. For Juneau to so blatantly showcase her anti-2nd Amendment agenda goes to show Montanans can’t trust her to protect our way of life.

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Governor Bullock is once again reacting to the leadership shown by Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, who has repeatedly called on Bullock to defend Montana jobs and Colstrip. Bullock has now reversed course and asked Washington Governor Jay Inslee to VETO a bill aimed at shutting down Colstrip and resulting in the loss of 700 high-paying Montana jobs.

For weeks, Greg Gianforte has asked Bullock to fight back against Inslee’s Colstrip Shutdown bill, only to be told: Bullock isn’t likely to ask Inslee to veto the measure.

Yesterday, Bullock caved and asked Inslee to VETO the bill: “I still asked Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to veto it because I think we can do better.”

Wow–That’s quite the flip-flop, and there’s nothing like waiting until the last minute to change your mind with the bill’s April 2nd deadline right around the corner.

But, this isn’t the first time Bullock’s failed leadership has been on display when it comes to fighting for Colstrip and Montana jobs. He never had the courage to try and stop a similar bill in Oregon that also puts the future of Colstrip at risk.

The Colstrip community and Montana workers deserve leadership on this issue– not watch Bullock scramble as he leads from behind.

Earlier this week, Bullock also raised eyebrows when he snubbed Montana’s energy community after agreeing to speak at the 2016 Montana Energy Summit. His no-show isn’t the signal you want to send to this community dedicated to developing Montana energy and creating thousands of Montana jobs.

Bullock was probably uncomfortable attending a meeting that would upset his fringe environmental allies, who he is heavily dependent on for their money and support (or, maybe there was just no campaign fundraiser to piggyback onto the trip).

Montana faces threats from Obama’s job-killing energy agenda to efforts by Washington and Oregon to shut down Colstrip, and the last thing Montanans want is an inept Governor who repeatedly lacks the leadership and inability to fight for Montana jobs. Montanans deserve a Republican Governor who they can always count on to defend their jobs and fight for their livelihoods.

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The Billings Gazette took to their editorial board today to rip Bullock for campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime scheduling “questionable” and “weak” official state business trips to mask his true intentions of flying on the State plane to raise campaign money. They also note that more than a month has gone by and Bullock refuses to fulfill information requests made by the media about his State plane travels and emails related to his fundraisers. Bullock’s stonewalling the media by refusing to provide transparency about his taxpayer funded campaign trips. Bullock really does believe he’s above the law and accountable to no one– even the people he was elected to represent.

The Billings Gazette raised a number of important questions that Montanans deserve to have answered:

  1. Will Bullock stop abusing taxpayer dollars and pay for his campaign travels like other Montana governors have done in the past?
  2. The State plane cost $1,650/hour so why can’t Bullock make the drive from Helena to Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula and save taxpayers money?
  3. Does Bullock plan to ever honor the media’s information requests about his plane travels and emails related to his campaign fundraising trips?

Excerpts from the Billings Gazette–

Gazette opinion: Plane-gate may mean more rules necessary

Last week, Gazette reporter Tom Lutey reported a series of questionable trips taken by Bullock around the state which conveniently had fundraising stops attached.

Questionable because the official business — besides the fundraising — seemed rather weak, especially at $1,650 per hour of airplane cost at taxpayer expense.

It seems to us Bullock’s trips across the state that seem to magically coincide with fund-raising events aren’t just accidental. And, it makes sense from a time and resource perspective to pair those events. However, it raises the question: Should the taxpayers of Montana be on the hook to foot Bullock’s expense as he tries to raise more money? Why should he get a free ride when his opponents don’t get the same opportunity? And, just saying that Bullock is doing what others before him have done is a lousy excuse that we shouldn’t tolerate. Because someone else did the wrong thing shouldn’t excuse it forever into the future.

Other governors in Montana have paid for part of their trips when a fundraising event was scheduled out of their campaign. Marc Racicot paid for part of the costs when he would “piggyback” fundraising events onto official business. When the trip was completely for fundraising, Racicot took a private plane.

Just as questionable as running around in the state plane for fundraising is Bullock’s need to fire it up to go from Helena to Butte. We imagine that there’s hardly a time savings for such a short trip (less than 70 miles), by the time you figure out shuttling to the airport and getting ready to fly.

Both of these cases seem to have a common theme: Taking advantage of a taxpayer resource. 

Yet, examples like flying from Helena to Butte have us rethinking the position. Is Bullock — or any governor — so important that he or she can’t spare the extra time to drive between those two communities?

Life in Montana means roads and roads mean driving. We’re not sure why the governor doesn’t have the same sensibility, especially for short distances.

And if he is using the state plane for fundraising, why not reimburse Montana for the expense? It saves on the charade of trying to explain why making sandwiches is essential state business.

The Gazette began asking for the governor’s travel itinerary and emails related to this trip more than a month ago. We’d point out that a simple calendar request should not take this long. 

We’re not certain what is so cumbersome about releasing Bullock’s schedules or his email.

It only gives the appearance that Bullock has something to hide, or that it looks exactly like he’s taking advantage of a taxpayer resource.

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When Hillary Clinton said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” in a CNN town hall in Ohio last night, she should look to the work Governor Bullock has done to shut down our coal industry and put thousands of Montanans out of work.

Bullock’s standing by while Washington and Oregon pass legislation that will cripple Colstrip.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is about to sign legislation into law that pushes Colstrip closer to shutting down by paving the way to phase out all coal-generated electricity from Montana.

By the way, Bullock actually invited Inslee to raise dark money with him this weekend in Big Sky.

Montanans deserve to know if Bullock will ask Inslee to VETO this bill aimed at shutting down Colstrip.

Honestly, that’s expecting too much given …

Bullock didn’t lift a finger when the Governor of Oregon recently signed into law legislation that will eradicate coal from its power supply.”

Colstrip will be completely cut off from supplying both Washington and Oregon with an affordable and reliable energy resource- and this threatens its entire operation.

Bullock also bears responsibility for shutting down Otter Creek. His administration refused to issue permits that would have created 4,400 Montana job and generated nearly $100 million in tax revenue for vital infrastructure and school projects in our local communities. In fact, while serving as Attorney General as a member of the Land Board, Bullock voted against Otter Creek.

Remember when Bullock said Obama’s job-killing energy regulations wouldn’t shut down the Corette power plant? Well, Obama’s job-killing energy regulations did exactly that– Corette has been demolished, and with it 35 Montana jobs were eliminated.

This year alone, Montana lost nearly 200 jobs at our coal mines, railroad companies, and on the Crow Reservation because of Bullock’s job-killing energy agenda.

Bullock’s anti-coal, job-killing record could serve as a blueprint for Hillary’s War on Coal, and might even make him a strong contender to be her running mate.

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The Billings Gazette exposed Governor Bullock for campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime, using the State plane to attend fundraisers for his re-election campaign.

Bullock justifies these taxpayer funded trips as attending to official state business but in reality the main priority is to raise money for his campaign– and he’s doing so at a cost of $1,650/hour.

It’s astonishing to think that Bullock’s charging Montanans at a rate of $1,650/hour to fly on the State plane when he could be making the drive from Helena to Butte, Bozeman, and Missoula, and having his campaign pick up the tab– not the Montana taxpayers.

Bullock should also stop stonewalling media reporters who have requested information on his taxpayer funded campaign flights. Bullock behaves as if he’s above the law but it is illegal to use a taxpayer funded plane for campaign purposes, and he should immediately reimburse Montanans and halt his illegal campaign activity.

P.S. – Montanans deserve to know if Governor Bullock’s flying to Big Sky this weekend on the taxpayers’ dime for his dark money fundraiser with job-killer, anti-coal crusader WA Governor Inslee.

Billings Gazette: Bullock criticized for piggybacking campaign stops onto official business flights

Campaigning on the Taxpayers’ Dime

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is being criticized for piggybacking campaign events onto government business trips in his state airplane.

At issue are a handful of campaign fundraisers branded as “Women for Bullock” events that capped business flights to Montana communities during the past month.

Criticism of the flights surfaced on social media after it was mentioned in a Feb. 10 Associated Press report that Bullock, a Democrat, was unavailable for comment because he was in Billings making peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless and attending a campaign fundraiser. Bullock had flown to Billings for those events, plus a TV interview and a meeting with a union official. Similar business trips capped by campaign fundraisers also took place in Bozeman and Missoula.

Bullock Won’t Make the 115 Mile Drive to Missoula

On Wednesday, the criticism bubbled up on The Missoulian opinion page, where Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, accused Bullock of “holding campaign events at taxpayer expense.” Tschida said the cost of the Missoula trip was roughly $1,000. By car, Helena and Missoula are about 115 miles apart.

State Plane Cost $1,650/Hour

Rep. Ryan Osmundson, chairman of the subcommittee, said his interest was piqued by Bullock’s use of the plane to fly from Helena to Butte. The two communities are 67 miles apart by car. The governor’s plane costs about $1,650 an hour to operate, Osmundson said.

Bullock Stonewalls Media

On Feb. 17, The Gazette filed requests under the state’s public information laws concerning Bullock’s Feb. 10 flight to Billings. The request was for all written and recorded conversations between Gov. Bullock and/or his staff with representatives of School District 2 and the Billings Golden K Kiwanis regarding the governor’s Feb. 10, 2016, appearance at Riverside School in Billings. The public documents request was a first step in attempting to determine whether the official trip was planned before the campaign fundraiser.

The Gazette also requested information about who was on the plane for the Feb. 10 flight. The Gazette also requested information about the governor’s Feb. 16 trip to Missoula. Also, The Gazette requested the governor’s schedule, which is not available to the public without a request.

Those requests have not yet been fulfilled.

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