Schweitzer Not Planning Bold Moves in Upcoming Session

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer says he won’t be pushing any bold new initiatives during the upcoming legislative session.

Schweitzer said he’s more interested in preserving and building upon his first-term accomplishments in energy, education and other areas.

“Sometimes you’ve got to plant a tree and just nurture it and let it grow,” he said in a recent interview. “People throw up their hands and say, ‘Well, how come that tree’s only two feet tall?’ I say, it’s only two years old. Give some of these trees an opportunity to grow, to bear fruit.”

Lawmakers are preparing a pared-down state budget but not much else of consequence for the upcoming session. Schweitzer said one thing he will ask the Legislature to do is improve Montana’s ability to collect state income tax on people and companies he believes are avoiding those taxes.

State tax revenue is shrinking as the national economy slides into recession. Schweitzer already has revised his budget proposals, shaving some $144 million in spending from his original two-year, $3.8 billion budget for 2010-2011.

Political power in Helena will be split, with Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrat Schweitzer in the governor’s seat and Democrats and Republicans at a 50-50 tie in the House.

Schweitzer said he wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed if few major policy changes made it through the session. He said many Montana citizens probably feel the same way.

“There are a very few pieces that come out of every Legislature that have the ability of making small business and families and children’s lives more productive, more fulfilled,” he added.

Schweitzer won re-election with 68 percent in November. He beat Republican state Sen. Roy Brown, of Billings, and will be sworn in Jan. 5.