By BOB ANEZ/Associated Press Writer
HELENA - Bob Brown, Republican candidate for governor, said Tuesday he would ask the Legislature to double a scheduled increase in state aid to schools and put measures on the ballot that would limit government spending growth and overhaul Montana's tax system.
At a Capitol news conference, he characterized the proposals as efforts to take advantage of an improving Montana economy and help sustain that growth.
''These things are fundamental to Montana's eco-
nomic future,'' said Brown, who is the secretary of state. ''What we want to do is to recognize that the economy is moving in a positive direction and to make sure that the economy continues to move in a positive direction by our tax and spending policies.''
His suggestions continue Brown's campaign emphasis on economic issues and are part of his Advance Montana plan that includes diverting deposits from the coal tax trust fund to bolster economic development in the state.
Brown said he wants to use some of an estimated $131 million budget surplus to give schools a $40 million increase in state funding instead of the planned $20 million that represents a new cost-of-living boost approved by the last Legislature.
Brown said he would treat the unexpected money cautiously.
''It's not some kind of big windfall that government should get all giddy about,'' he said. ''It's an opportunity for us, to give us a little breathing room. We're better off than we've been for the last couple of bienniums.''
Brown said he will not offer specific proposals for the constitutional spending limit or the tax overhaul, but instead wants the Legislature to come up with its own measures for the 2006 ballot.
''I'm a great believer in the legislative process,'' the former lawmaker said. ''I want the Legislature ... putting their collective heads together.''
Brown said a restriction on government spending should ensure increases do not exceed growth in the state's economy, although he did not say how economic conditions should be measured. ''Government simply cannot spend more than its citizens produce,'' he said.
He said any plan for remodeling the tax system at least must produce no additional money for government, provide property tax relief and help improve Montana's business climate.
He acknowledged a general sales tax probably would be part of any proposal offered to voters. Although Montanans overwhelmingly rejected such a tax in 1972 and 1993, Brown said it may be time to test the waters again.
Brian Schweitzer, Brown's Democratic rival, endorsed Brown's idea of giving more money to schools. But he questioned the need for a constitutional restriction on state spending increases.
''You limit the growth in government spending by doing the responsible thing and running it like a business,'' he said. ''When you have good years, you put money aside. There will be bad years. You can't spend every penny you take in. You need a governor who will challenge every expenditure.''
Schweitzer dismissed Brown's call for a tax overhaul ballot measure, saying the state cannot afford to wait for ''a gimmick that says we're going to have a vote 2 years from now.''