Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Both candidates for governor in Montana have been trading jabs in interviews, each claiming that what the other says isn’t accurate on issues including Amtrak, 4 for 2, state spending and accountability in government. “It’s important to set the record straight,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, said last week. Republican Roy Brown, who has announced his intention to run for governor in the election next year, said much the same about Schweitzer, such as in his spending increases. Schweitzer says state spending increases are just slightly higher than the 25-year average, while Brown says Schweitzer is playing games with his figuring. “Democrats have gone in and picked out what they don’t like and adjusted all the spending numbers,” Brown said this week. “ What they have done is completely outrageous.” Schweitzer and the Montana Democratic Party contacted the Havre Daily News after Brown was profiled in the Nov. 7 edition of the Daily News during a campaign swing that included Havre, saying many of the issues Brown raised were falsely represented. Amtrak One of the hot spots for Schweitzer was Brown’s claim that he would support Amtrak and Essential Air Service if he were elected governor. Schweitzer said Brown’s vote against a resolution in 2005 urging continuation of Amtrak service shows that is not the case. Brown, now a state senator, was one of 28 representatives and 4 senators who voted against the resolution in 2005. “He was one of the minority of people who voted against it,” Schweitzer said. The passenger rail service includes the Empire Builder, the most popular long-distance route in Amtrak, which runs across north-central Montana including a stop in Havre on its route from Chicago to Portland and Seattle. Brown said he didn’t vote against Amtrak, he voted against a legislative resolution. He said that in his 10 years in the Legislature he rarely voted in favor of resolutions urging the federal government in Washington, D.C., to do something, because he believes those resolutions are ignored in Washington. “They just go in the garbage cans,” Brown said. “ I just don’t like resolutions. Nobody pays any attention to them.” Schweitzer’s office said that isn’t entirely accurate, either, pointing out that Brown did vote for at least two resolutions in 2005, the same year the Amtrak resolution was proposed: SJ 42, recognizing the service of Montana National Guard members; and SJ 19, which encouraged Montana’s congressional delegation to allow the USA PATRIOT ACT to expire while taking actions to support fighting terrorism and to protect civil rights and civil lib-Erties. Schweitzer said his actions show his support for the passenger rail service. The joint resolution, working with Montana’s congressional delegation and bringing federal officials out to Montana to ride the train with them helped prevent “the hypocrisy of ending Amtrak on the northern tier,” he said. 4 for 2 Another disagreement is on the push to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across Montana, which has been a high-profile issue on the Hi-Line since state Sen. Sam Kitzenberg of Glasgow in 2001 passed a state law directing the Montana Department of Transportation to do just that. Brown said he doesn’t support turning Highway 2 into a four-lane highway. “I’ve been driving Highway 2 for a couple of hours now and I don’t know that I saw more than a couple of dozen cars,” he said on Nov. 5. “I can see places where you need two lanes plus a turning lane, wider shoulders. That makes sense. “I don’t know that four lanes is economically feasible,” Brown said. Schweitzer said his administration is already working to make it happen. While a study on the highway between Havre and Fort Belknap came back with a decision by the federal government to make a “super 2” with wider lanes, shoulders and intermittent turning and passing lanes due to a lack of traffic, his office is working to start on another area, Schweitzer said. He said the area from the North Dakotan border North Dakota has completed widening Highway 2 to four lanes across most of the state to Culbertson is the focus now. While the traffic doesn’t justify a fourlane highway by federal standards, connectivity to the rest of the four-lane configuration could, Schweitzer said. Once the first section in Montana is widened to four lanes, the rest can follow, he added. “Connectivity becomes a big factor,” Schweitzer said. “We can use it to help get the feds” to agree to widen the highway. State spending Schweitzer and Brown also traded jabs on spending under the Schweitzer administration. Brown said Schweitzer has increased state spending 40 percent, and Schweitzer said his increases are actually close to the annual average over the last 26 years. Schweitzer provided figures showing the average annual increase has been 5.1 percent, with the average increase under his administration 7.3 percent . Brown claims that is creative accounting. Schweitzer has excluded many expenditures in his computations including onetime spending that Brown says are for standing programs that will probably continue in future budgets. “Brian Schweitzer wouldn’t like those numbers because they are the biggest increase in history,” Brown said. “ he has changed it all to his liking.” Schweitzer also said Brown claims he wants to rein in state funding, yet he voted to override nine Schweitzer vetoes on spending bills which would have resulted in increasing state spending by $29 million. “Mr. Brown voted for more spending than I had in my budget,” Schweitzer said. Brown said he voted against most of the spending Schweitzer proposed, including the general appropriations act approved by the Legislature during the May 2007 special session. He voted to override those vetoes because of the specific activities they funded, Brown said. “There’s always going to be priorities for spending,” he said. “(Schweitzer) will try to veto Republican spending and push through Democratic spending.” Government accountability Brown also said he wants to increase accountability in government, including proposing a committee to review state spending and spending increases to see exactly where money is coming from and where it is going. Schweitzer, focusing on another issue, again said Brown’s record shows otherwise. Brown voted for a bill that would have overturned an initiative passed by the voters that required elected officials and political appointees to wait two years after they leave their position before becoming lobbyists, which was done to increase accountability, Schweitzer said. Brown said that is not entirely accurate. The bill had stalled in committee in 2007, and he voted to “blast” it out of committee to be debated on the floor of the Senate he said. He said he never heard the debate, so he doesn’t know how he would have voted on the bill. On the Net: Montana Legislative Web site: http://leg.mt.gov/css/default.asp.