Steve Bullock: My vision for Indian Country's future in Montana

The following is the opinion of Steve Bullock, the Democratic candidate for governor of Montana. He currently serves as the state's attorney general.

As I talk to folks in every corner of the state, they’re optimistic. They believe in a stronger Montana. They believe in our future: a Montana with even better jobs, vibrant small businesses, and outstanding education. Indian Country faces a unique set of challenges, but has a strong vision for the future and great potential.

I want to serve you as our next governor because I, too, have a bright vision for Indian Country. And I believe I have the experience and values to turn our vision into reality.

Over the past few years, I've traveled to Indian Country many times as Attorney General. I've visited each reservation, meeting with tribal governments and local tribal communities. I’ve spent time with many of you, and I’ve listened to your concerns.

As Attorney General, I’ve brought people together to get results on some of the biggest challenges we face in Indian Country. I have:
· Fought prescription drug abuse and repeat drunk drivers through State-Tribal cooperation
· Arranged for reservation law enforcement training at the request of the Fort Peck and Blackfeet Tribes
· Provided funding and assistance to help Tribes directly issue their own “Hope Cards” to victims of domestic violence
· Helped tribal team members protect kids through the Montana Child Sexual Abuse Response Team

There is still a lot of work to do. I've listened to your concerns about high unemployment, lack of access to capital for small businesses, health disparities, and low high-school graduation rates. Our reservations face many challenges, but we also have the potential to make changes and address issues both on and off the reservations.

I have a plan to create jobs – focusing on Montana’s small businesses. We’ll responsibly develop our natural resources and diversify our economy by creating more tech and value-added jobs and strengthening our workforce. I will eliminate the business equipment tax for 11,000 companies and provide a $400 tax rebate to every homeowner in the state. This plan will encourage investment and hiring by businesses in Indian Country, creating jobs on the reservations and throughout Montana.

And through my Main Street Montana Task Force, I’ll help you build a stronger economy in Indian Country by ensuring that small businesses have the incentives and resources they need to grow.

Respectfully, my opponent’s experience is quite different when it comes to standing up for Montana jobs and workers. While I led the fight to increase the minimum wage, Congressman Rick Hill voted against modest pay increases for Montana workers – not just once, but five times. While he says Montana’s future makes him “scared,” I believe our future is filled with opportunity.

That’s why my wife Lisa and I are raising our three children in Helena, where we both grew up. We are passing along the same values our parents passed on to us: belief in hard work, in generosity, and in being good neighbors, friends, and family members.

I believe we need to invest in education—in Indian Country and in all our communities. Because good schools and safe, strong learning environments for our children are the bedrock of strong communities. I’ll also promote further coordination and partnerships between the Tribal Colleges and the State University system.

As Attorney General, I oversaw the cooperation between State and Tribal law enforcement: protecting our kids, helping victims of domestic violence, and fighting prescription drug abuse. I also know Tribal Nations operate best when they develop, implement, and enforce their own laws and policies: this enhances economic development while protecting the Tribal members, communities and environments as sovereign nations. As Tribes, you know your communities best.

I’ll continue developing partnerships with Indian Country, because government can't do this alone. Each Tribal Nation is unique, sovereign, and rich in culture and history. I realize each reservation may consist of different tribes and cultures, but that those people live as neighbors and friends in their communities.

If you'll give me the opportunity, I'll put my experience, Montana values, and vision to work for you every day – to make sure our children can grow, learn, and raise their own families, right here in Montana.

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