- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Money, wages and jobs dominated Montana’s gubernatorial race on Monday, as Gov. Steve Bullock and Republican Greg Gianforte filed their latest campaign finance reports and as both continued to make high-paying jobs a central issue of the campaign.

Gianforte loaned his gubernatorial campaign $150,000, while racking up more than $100,000 in donations in recent weeks, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Commissioner of Political Practices. The loans add to the $272,000 Gianforte has given his campaign in his attempt to derail Gov. Steve Bullock’s bid for a second term.

The filing deadline is the first following last week’s ruling by a federal judge invalidating contribution limits set by voters in 1994, opening the way for unlimited campaign contributions by political parties and substantially higher limits for political action committees.

But the reporting period, which covers from April 27 thru May 18, barely overlapped the first two days of the limits now in effect. Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said he did not expect any of the campaign statements being filed on Monday to reflect a potential surge of money.

According to his finance statement, Gianforte had $375,000 left in the bank after spending about $239,000 during the reporting period.

Bullock raised $111,000 during the same span and had more than $1.2 million in cash on hand after spending about $74,000. The governor has raised more than $1.8 million since launching his re-election bid, while Gianforte has raised $1.1 million.

As both men battle over the governor’s job, Bullock and Gianforte have crisscrossed the state talking about creating high-paying jobs.

Bullock traveled to Billings on Monday to promote health care workforce development, while Gianforte during a press conference in Bozeman unveiled a website, Learn2EarnMT.com, that he says will help bridge the “disconnect between educational pursuits and jobs.”

The governor visited the RiverStone Health Clinic to join educators and health care leaders for a round table on what he called “unprecedented opportunities to enter the high-demand and high-paying health care industry.”

He said his economists at the Department of Labor expect as many as 1,300 jobs being added each year, including 700 openings annually for nurses. “This is good news for Montana and good news for today’s students,” Bullock said, adding that the average wage for a registered nurse is at least $61,000 a year.

Gianforte joined Sen. Elsie Arntzen, a former teacher who is running to become the next superintendent of public instruction, in demonstrating a new website that aims to educate students and their parents about careers, salaries and the likelihood of landing a job in Montana in a particular field.

“Too many students spend large amounts of money - often taking on major debt - to attend college without being properly informed about their career prospects,” Gianforte said.

Gianforte, who made his fortune in the software industry, called the website the final piece in his slate of educational proposals.

Last week in Kalispell, Gianforte and Arntzen said they would make computer science a part of the curriculum in every high school and allow coding to satisfy foreign language requirements.

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