Greg Gianforte sworn in as Montana governor
Gianforte stresses the economy, fiscal responsibility
Gov. Greg Gianforte, right, takes the oath of office on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in the Governor’s Reception Room of the Montana State Capitol. (Pool photo by Thom Bridge of the Helena Independent Record)
In front of an in-person crowd of about 25 people and more than 1,400 tuning in virtually, Greg Gianforte was sworn in Monday as Montana’s 25th governor and the first Republican in that office in 16 years.
In a prepared speech, Gianforte delivered a measured message reinforcing his aspirations to grow Montana’s economy and deliver tax cuts for its citizens.
The 59-year-old former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Bozeman businessman who sold his software company RightNow to Oracle in 2011 for $1.5 billion takes the helm in Montana during a pandemic and its ensuing economic crisis.
Kristen Juras was sworn in alongside Gianforte as lieutenant governor.
“I am committed to making Montana more competitive by lowering taxes, cutting unnecessary red tape, and improving our infrastructure,” Gianforte said. “We must also get state government off our backs and get its hands out of our pockets so that we can get our economy going again, get Montana open for business, and get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs.
House Minority Leader Kim Abbott said Democrats are on board for working with the governor on things like creating jobs for Montanans. “Democrats will work with whoever we can to create jobs and opportunity for Montanans — we hope Governor Gianforte will join us in that effort,” she said in a statement provided by a spokesperson. “Working with Republicans in the legislature, we’ve built a responsible, sound state budget that has spurred job creation and created unprecedented opportunity for Montanans.”
But she said, “Democrats will fight to build on the progress we’ve made and defend Montanans from any reckless cuts the governor proposes.”
Gianforte listed economic growth and more good-paying Montana jobs, fiscal responsibility, state government reform and protecting Montanans’ way of life as the core principles that will guide his administration.
“Today is a new day for Montana,” Senate President Mark Blasdel said in a statement about Gianforte’s swearing in. “We look forward to working with Governor Gianforte to start Montana’s Comeback, get our economy going, shore up our healthcare system, and protect the Montana way of life.”
Democratic Minority Leaders Jill Cohenour and Abbott said in a joint statement that both parties are “united in our efforts this session to create jobs and opportunity, and help Montanans come back stronger than ever.” They added, “we hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle can find it within them to help conduct a session that is safe, predictable, and open to the kind of public participation Montanans have come to expect.”
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gianforte opted to hold his inauguration ceremony virtually. The Daily Montanan attended the inauguration via video.
“This inauguration ceremony is no different. There are no large crowds on the Capitol grounds. There are no celebrations,” Gianforte said.
When he was not speaking at the podium during his inauguration, Gianforte could be seen wearing his mask, in keeping with his earlier message that he and his staff will be masked at the Capitol.
Gianforte has also encouraged other lawmakers to use masks, but few face coverings were seen at the GOP joint House and Senate press conference held Monday afternoon.
Further addressing the pandemic and its effect on Montana, Gianforte acknowledged the nearly 1,000 lives lost and gave thanks to frontline workers from healthcare professionals to grocery store clerks, whom he called the “the heroes” of the pandemic.
“I am confident, with vaccines and increased testing, we will get a better handle on our response to COVID-19,” he said. Last week in a call with reporters, Gianforte said he plans to roll out his COVID-19 after his inauguration.
Gianforte ran for governor in 2016 and lost to incumbent and Democrat Steve Bullock. This year, Gianforte won against Bullock’s Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, and Montana was the only state where a different party took the governor’s seat. Republicans also took every state office and increased their majority in the November election and have said they plan on working with the governor to deliver the conservative mandate voters set forth.
Gianforte also pledged unity in his upcoming administration and said he believes there is more that “unites us than divides us.” He added, “that’s why I look forward to working with anyone — Democrat, Republican, or independent — who has a good idea.”
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