Biography submitted by Rep. Rob Cook
I am 48 years-old and a partner in Intercontinental Truck Body (ITB).
I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU-Bozeman. After earning my engineering degree I left the state for 11 years. In 1999 I received an offer to return to Montana. I took advantage of the opportunity to become a job creator and left the Peterbilt Design Center to become the managing partner of ITB. To be able to return to my roots in Montana was a dream come true.
I am the president of the board for Hi-Line Help for Abused Spouses, an associate board member for Front Range CASA/GAL, and the legislative board member for the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center. I am a Shriner and I work very hard to raise money for the children who use our hospitals. In my spare time I enjoy reading, rafting, hiking, and jogging.
When I listen to Montanans describe their rural communities there is a recurring theme. We want our local economy to provide opportunities for secure employment.
We want our school system to provide the best opportunities for student achievement. We want to ensure that our rural medical system is able to meet our family’s needs. And we want infrastructure that can provide clean drinking water, remove waste safely, allow for safe travel, and provide fire and police protection.
Providing these items in an effective and cost efficient manner has been my legislative priority, and I have been very successful in this endeavor. My strong financial and engineering background, combined with hard work, has earned me the Chairmanship of the Long Range Planning Committee of House Appropriations. This committee is responsible for developing the legislature’s infrastructure construction plan.
Last session, I was instrumental in getting Senator Llew Jones’ education bill passed out of the Montana House. This legislation established a new baseline for student achievement, provided secure funding for schools, and established a mechanism to assist eastern Montana with the challenges created by natural resource production.
Additionally, I carried much of the legislation related to infrastructure construction.
I was able to ensure that: North Central Montana Regional Water received full funding; the cities of Conrad, Cut Bank, Shelby, and Valier received infrastructure grants; and the Pondera Canal Company received a commitment from the state to backstop a promise made in the Water Compact that the Federal government had reneged on.
And finally, I responded to a request from local hospitals, and the Montana Chamber of Commerce, to support legislation that waived Medicaid expansion and replaced it with a plan that utilized private insurers.
This plan had the advantage of utilizing free market principles to reimburse our local healthcare providers at their full rate. This is important because standard Medicaid reimbursement rates are a fraction of the full rate and the reduced payments cause severe financial stress for our rural healthcare providers.
Each interim I plan my goals for the next session. I do this by identifying the issues that I know will be pertinent to my constituents in the short term and in the long term.
Property tax reappraisal is the short term issue that I will tackle. Reappraisal will be completed in the next legislative session and it will be important to every agricultural producer in the district that they have a legislator who can lead on this issue.
My long term goal is to continue to improve the method by which we financially plan for infrastructure replacement. Failure to address our state’s infrastructure needs puts our potential for economic development at risk and unnecessarily shifts the entire financial burden to our children and our grandchildren.