GOP Lawmakers Respond to Governor’s 71 Vetoes

By Beacon Staff

After Gov. Steve Bullock’s final veto tally came in at 71 bills, just seven shy of the record for a Montana governor, GOP lawmakers wasted no time in publicly voicing their displeasure.

Kalispell Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, who worked with Democrats on a number of issues during the Legislature, said he expected Bullock to exhibit a less “aggressive” governing style than former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and was upset by what he perceived as the governor’s heavy veto hand. Schweitzer holds the record for vetoes in a single session at 78 in 2011.

“At least we knew with Schweitzer that he didn’t respect us,” Tutvedt told the Associated Press. “And while there was never a quid pro quo with this governor, we were working with him to deliver good responsible legislation and now when it was his turn to do the right thing for the right reasons it appears he took a very partisan attitude.”

The vetoes immediately appeared to dampen the session-long goodwill on public display between many GOP lawmakers and the governor’s office – a relationship touted by both sides throughout the 63rd Legislature.

But Tutvedt said in a May 10 interview that Bullock called him after hearing of his comments to the AP. Though he said he’s still unhappy about some of the vetoes, Tutvedt said he had a good conversation with Bullock and believes there will be open dialogue heading into next session.

The Kalispell Republican said he understands the role the legislative process played in some of Bullock’s vetoes. He said Bullock received 120 bills after legislators had already left town, which he attributed to Senate leadership holding up legislation.

“He didn’t have time to make small changes and make the bills more palatable to him,” Tutvedt said. “He gets the bills after we leave town and he can’t do an amendatory veto. It’s either up or down.”

Bullock has also argued that his vetoes were necessary to save money and add to the state surplus. The governor sought a $300 million surplus, which was significantly more than the under $200 million left behind by the Legislature.

“I take the responsibility that we have of a balanced budget very seriously,” Bullock said.

Tutvedt was unhappy that Bullock removed funding for agricultural experimental research stations and to provide assistance to eastern Montana towns hit by the oil boom. He also disagreed with the vetoes of two tax relief bills that he sponsored. One of those bills, Senate Bill 240, proposed to exempt businesses from paying property taxes on air and water pollution control equipment.

“We had a good talk about Senate Bill 240,” the senator said.

Tutvedt’s other tax relief bill vetoed by Bullock was Senate Bill 282, which proposed a simplification of the state income tax. Tutvedt said he also had a positive conversation with Bullock about that bill and thinks income tax will be addressed in the interim with the goal of having a bill ready to go for the 2015 session.

Like Tutvedt, Republican Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel of Somers had touted the improved relationship between Republicans and the governor’s office during the session. And like Tutvedt, he was disappointed by the governor’s actions, particularly vetoing tax relief bills while approving spending packages such as a state employee pay plan.

“Obviously there was less rhetoric (than with Schweitzer),” Blasdel said in an interview last week, “but at the end of the day his political ideologies showed on which bills he signed and which ones he didn’t.”

“I thought we had put forward some very reasonable bills dealing with the tax issues and I thought he would take a serious look at them,” he added.

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