Why did Governor Steve Bullock wait so long to finally broker a deal with Core Civic, the company that operates the prison south of Shelby, Montana?

Republican legislators like Rep. Rob Cook (R-Shelby) and State Sen. Llew Jones (R-Conrad) were calling on Bullock to broker a deal with Core Civic nearly a year ago. That move would have freed up $34 million in funds for the state government in order to help dodge a special session, and cuts to programs serving people with disabilities and other health and human services programs.

Instead the governor sat on the sidelines while cuts were impacting health and human services programs across the state.

So why did he wait till now? Was it to simply negotiate a better deal, as the liberal Billings Gazette editorial board wants you to believe?

Not so, as Cook tells it:

The Governor wasn't even negotiating before the special session as he had decided that it was better to drag legislators back to Helena, in a second attempt to force his proposed tax increases on Montanans, than to take the use fee being offered by CoreCivic. It was Republican legislation that created the impetus to begin negotiations. In other words, the Governor was perfectly content to NEVER negotiate and simply foist deeper cuts on vulnerable Montanans.

That was the response Cook sent me early Wednesday morning. He also joined me live on our Montana Talks radio show where he pointed out that, contrary to the Billings Gazette's editorial, the governor did not negotiate a better deal with Core Civic.  Cook says Bullock is mis-representing the deal.

To say that there wasn't a daily rate increase at the Shelby prison is a bald-faced lie. The net increase to the state- the net contract didn't increase to the state, but he gave $6 of the previous $9 use fee in a daily rate increase. So, he did increase the money going to Core Civic, he just decreased the amount of the money the state has going forward.