Legislators uphold final 19 Bullock vetoes
June 11, 2013
On both pieces of legislation mentioned in this story, Resp. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Chinook, State Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy and Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, voted to override Gov. Steve Bullock's vetoes. Rep. Clarena Brockie, D-Harlem, voted to sustain Bullock's vetoes.
HELENA — Lawmakers on Monday upheld Gov. Steve Bullock's final 19 vetoes of the legislative session, including one bill for infrastructure improvements in eastern Montana and another to make one-time payments to providers who care for the elderly and disabled.
The secretary of state's office reported the tally from the final round of veto-override mail balloting by state legislators since they adjourned on April 24.
Bullock vetoed a total of 71 bills from the session. Last week, the Legislature upheld five Bullock vetoes in the first round of post-session balloting.
"If Montana is going to continue to keep taxes low and help businesses grow, we have to have a balanced budget," Bullock said in a statement after the tallies were released. "Unfortunately, the legislature sent me a budget that proposed we spend $21 million more than we'll take in — and I was forced to pull out my veto pen and cut back some good bills. I'm glad that legislators — of both parties — recognized how important maintaining our fiscal strength is and sustained my vetoes."
The budget was already balanced, said Rep. Duane Ankney, the Republican sponsor of House Bill 218, the measure to improve infrastructure in eastern Montana.
The difference was whether to cut the measures to have a $300 million projected surplus or fund them, leaving a smaller surplus, he said.
A two-thirds majority in each chamber is required for an override, or 67 votes in the House and 34 in the Senate. That is a difficult threshold to meet as lawmakers typically back the actions of the governor from their party.
In the end, Ankney said, pressure by the governor's office on Democratic lawmakers made the difference — and the higher balance was put above the needs of Montanans who need better housing and roads.
"I've had bills vetoed, that's the way the pickle squirts," Ankney said. "But this one. ... I really thought at first we could do it because of the support I was getting from the Democratic House members. Then that support started to dwindle."
Ankney came close, mustering enough votes in the Senate for an override but falling short in the House by six votes. His bill would have helped eastern Montana oil-boom towns by creating a fund for infrastructure improvements, such as road and water systems.
An initial $15 million was to be transferred to the fund, with at least $10 million more added to it each year from 2014 to 2020 from U.S. mineral royalty revenue.
During the session, the measure passed 48-2 in the Senate and 93-6 in the House. Monday's tally had 61 legislators in the House voting to override the HB 218 veto, with 32 voting no, according to the secretary of state.
In the Senate, the vote was 38-7 in favor of overriding the HB 218 veto.
Bullock said in his veto message that $40 million already has been allocated for eastern Montana infrastructure projects in another measure
Another bill, House Bill 12, would have made one-time payments totaling $6.5 million to providers that the state funds to care for the elderly and the disabled. The payments were meant to make up for money cut by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and would come with a small increase in the Medicaid provider rates.
Supporters say the bill was needed to make sure providers can afford to keep offering care. That bill passed 41-9 in the Senate and 79-21 in the House.
For HB 12, the House vote was 59-32 in favor of overriding the veto, and the vote was 38-6 in the Senate.
Lawmakers last overturned a veto in 1999, when Republican Mark Racicot was governor.
The cost to conduct the veto polls was $5,544.63, the secretary of state's office said.