Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney Releases “Keep Montana Working” Plan

Cooney’s plan supports good-paying jobs and long-term economic and business growth

MONTANA—Today Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, Democratic candidate for governor, released his “Keep Montana Working” plan. Cooney’s plan proposes measures to support good-paying jobs across Montana by prioritizing Montana jobs in state hiring and contracting, ensuring both rural and urban economies are giving the resources to grow, continuing to make investments in apprenticeship and workforce training efforts and empowering Montana women in the workforce.

As Montana businesses, workers and communities continue to recover from the immediate economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, we must keep our eye on the ball,” said Lt. Gov. Cooney. “As governor I’ll make sure Montana businesses have the tools and resources they need to bounce back stronger and more resilient than ever and create more good-paying jobs, and that we’re investing in 21st century infrastructure to support economic growth in urban and rural communities all across the state.

Working with Gov. Steve Bullock, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney has helped build a foundation for a strong economy. Before the coronavirus crisis, Montana’s economy was strong and growing. According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry:

  • The unemployment rate in Montana was the lowest in over a decade.
  • Montana’s economy added 46,000 jobs since the end of the recession.
  • Montana experienced the 6th fastest wage growth in annual wages in the nation over the past decade. 
  • Montana was ranked 1st in the nation for median household income growth from 2016 to 2017
  • Highest rate of business ownership among households. 
  • Montana was ranked top in the nation in startup activity per capita, with 4,932 new firms opening in Montana in the last year. 
  • Montana had the fifth best tax climate in the nation. 
  • Exports from Montana reached a record $1.7 billion in 2018, an increase of 19% ($272 million) from its export level in 2008.
  • Montana’s high tech companies generated over $2 billion in revenue last year, grew nine times faster than the state’s overall economy and paid double the median wage.

Now Gov. Steve Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney are bringing together businesses, workers, medical experts, and people from both parties to develop a plan to safely restart our economy and get people back to work faster than neighboring states. Cooney released his plan in Missoula with local business owners, who praised Cooney’s forward-thinking agenda to support Montana’s economy, businesses, and workers.

Mike’s proposals to boost our economy and strengthen Montana families, workers, and businesses are what’s needed now to bounce back from this virus,” said Whitney Williams, Founder & CEO of williamsworks. “Montanans are tough.  I’m working to elect Mike Cooney governor because we know what it takes to create good-paying jobs and support a new generation of leaders – workers, business owners, and entrepreneurs – to drive Montana and our economy forward.

Keep Montana Working Plan

Hire Montanans First Act

Montana jobs should be filled by Montana workers. Mike Cooney’s Hire Montanans First Act will increase the required proportion of Montana workers on state and locally funded contracts to 75 percent, and expand this requirement to all projects, not just construction. 

Buy Made in Montana Act

Montana businesses produce world-class retail and agricultural products that compete with mass-produced products in the U.S. and the world. Mike Cooney’s Buy Made in Montana Act will require the Montana state government to prefer Montana-made products in its purchases.

Executive Order on Outsourcing

Mike Cooney will exercise his Executive Authority to issue an Executive Order to grant preference in state contracting to companies that do not outsource jobs to other states or countries, and penalize companies who outsource more than 25% of jobs.

Office of Rural Prosperity

Mike Cooney will create the Office of Rural Prosperity to prioritize economic development and job creation in rural Montana by streamlining rural policy, creating an inventory of existing resources and initiatives while aiding in rural improvement efforts. The office will be administratively attached to the Montana Department of Commerce and work with the Montana Department of Agriculture.

Expanded Apprenticeship Tax Credit

Apprenticeship is a time-honored training model in Montana which provides businesses access to a talented and trained workforce while ensuring Montana workers can earn while they learn. Mike Cooney will expand the Apprenticeship Tax Credit to include a $500 tax credit to businesses who hire apprentices that permanently lost their job due to the economic impact of COVID-19. 

Broadband Infrastructure Target

Mike Cooney will set a target of 90% broadband internet connectivity in all 56 counties in Montana. Right now, there’s not a single state program designed to aid broadband deployment. As Governor, Mike Cooney will close that gap, and work with Montana’s cooperatives and rural providers to give them the financial tools they need to put fiber in the ground and deploy broadband to every Montana home that wants it. 

Renewable Energy Worker Training Grants

Montana has an incredible opportunity to be a leader in renewable energy and be at the forefront of the transition to a clean energy economy that supports thousands of good-paying jobs. As Governor Mike Cooney will propose legislation to provide preference in the existing Workforce Training Grant (WTG) program within the Department of Commerce for businesses who create jobs in the renewable energy sector. 

Governor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development

Mike Cooney will transition the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to become the Governor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. The office will continue to recruit new businesses, grow existing businesses, help with business transition, and to ensure our workforce training programs work in unison to meet the needs of our economy in 2030.

Empowering Montana Women in Workforce

Building off the work of Women for Cooney, Mike Cooney will propose and implement a series of policies designed to empower Montana women in the workplace, including:

Equal Pay

Mike Cooney will continue the work of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force created by Gov. Bullock in 2013, which advocates for policies and programs to help close the wage gap in Montana, including wage negotiation training, employer best practices and helping draft legislation like the Paycheck Transparency Act.

Cooney will propose the Paycheck Transparency Act, which addresses gender wage inequality by allowing greater wage transparency. The act creating paycheck transparency protections would protect Montana workers by preventing Montana employers from seeking or discussing information regarding past wages, benefits, or other salary history as a condition of employment or application for employment.

Paid Family Leave

Mike Cooney will direct the State of Montana, as the state’s largest employer, to be at the forefront of offering Paid Family Leave benefits to executive branch employees, ranging from 6-16 weeks of leave (combinations of both paid and unpaid) to care for a new child or an ill family member, undergo a medical procedure, tend to a serious health condition, or donate an organ. 

Childcare Incentives

Mike Cooney will increase the funding capacity for start-up, expansion, and licensing compliance grants to support early childhood businesses so that every parent who wants to work can afford to work without jeopardizing the health, safety, or development of their children. 

Public Pre-K

Mike Cooney will make working with Republicans and Democrats in the legislature to permanently invest in publicly-funded high-quality early childhood education a top priority for his administration. Children who take part in high-quality early childhood education programs are: More likely to read at grade level; Less likely to repeat a grade or require special education; More likely to earn a high school diploma; Less likely to become teenage parents, require public assistance, abuse drugs, or end up in jail. Every $1 spent on high-quality preschool programs creates at least $7 in future savings to the communities and states that invest. 

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