Montana Governor: Votes to Override Vetoes Fall Short

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Thursday that a tally of lawmakers show there won’t be enough votes to override any of his vetoes.

Schweitzer was busy with his veto pen this past legislative session, rejecting nearly 80 bills. The Democrat faced a Legislature dominated by Republicans, and the two sides sparred frequently.

Schweitzer even fashioned a “VETO” hot cattle brand and used it to torch some Republican bills on the front steps of the Capitol. Republicans accused the governor of mocking the legislative process with the political showmanship, and shooting down good ideas for no good reason.

Now that the Legislature is adjourned, the state is polling lawmakers on the last of the vetoes issued. Support from two-thirds of the lawmakers is needed to override a veto.

Even though not all of the votes are in, Schweitzer pointed out that enough are in to show his vetoes already have enough votes of support to be upheld.

“They are not overriding any vetoes,” he said.

Lawmakers have not rejected a veto since the 1990s, although Schweitzer said it is rare for a governor to face a Legislature so dominated by the opposite party.

Schweitzer said that he thinks his most important veto was to strike down a new 2.75 percent tax on workers’ compensation insurance to pay off an old account with the State Fund insurance program. Schweitzer said the proposal ran counter to a bipartisan compromise to drastically lower the cost of work comp insurance.

Republicans argued the assessment was needed to pay the bills for the old work comp account that are currently coming out of the state’s general fund.

Schweitzer said he thinks another important veto was to strike down a plan to take money from tourism promotion in order to help pay the state’s bills. Schweitzer argues the state sees big dividends by attracting tourists to the state and says the state has enough money to meet its obligation without raiding that account and others.

Republicans said some of Schweitzer’s most harmful vetoes during the session were aimed at creating on online “open government” database, prohibiting mandatory sprinkler systems in buildings and two others that the Republicans said were important part of their plans to lower health care costs. One would have made it more difficult to sue over medical malpractice and another pushed back against the federal health care law.

“There were a lot of good bills he vetoed,” said House Majority Leader Tom McGillvray of Billings.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.