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Hansen assails Bullock budget during video conference

Gov. Steve Bullock's proposed state budget calls for massive spending increases that are never going to get through the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

That’s the opinion of State Sen. Kris Hansen, R-Havre.

Speaking to interested residents via videoconference from Helena, Hansen said the Appropriations subcommittee that she sits on is just one example.

The subcommittee oversees Montana state prisons, the public defenders office and the Public Service Commission.

All departments requested budget hikes averaging 15 percent, she said.

The panel rejected those and suggested smaller increases. The department heads then resubmitted budgets that were slightly smaller, but still way too hefty, she said.

“If you start hearing about how the legislature is cutting budgets, we’re not,” she said. “We are cutting the amount of increase they are getting.

“The governor’s budget is still way too high,” she said.

Hansen was joined in the videoconference by Rep. Mike Lang, R-Malta, Rep. G. Bruce Meyers, R-Box Elder, and Rep. Stephanie Hess, R-Havre. Public Service Commissioner Travis Kavulla, R-Great Falls, joined them briefly.

On other topics:

Privacy protections for reporters

Hansen said she is supporting legislation introduced by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, that would expand reporter’s right to refuse to turn over notes and the names of confidential sources.

Montana law has always protected reporters rights against confiscation of notes and names of sources by authorities.

In the Internet age, though, some law enforcement agencies elsewhere in the United States have obtained search warrants from Internet service providers, forcing them to snoop into reporter files and emails.

“Republicans and newspapers often don’t see eye to eye,” she said. “But we support privacy and we support this bill.”

Tax cut legislation

Lang spoke in favor of two pieces of tax cut legislation that was approved shortly after the videoconference.

Democrats opposed the tax cuts, saying they weren’t targeted to middle-income taxpayers.

Trapping rights

Meyers said that after three weeks in Helena, “it has finally sunk in” about the important decisions made by legislative committees.

“You should have warned me, Andrew,” he said, laughing, to Hill County Republican Chair Andrew Brekke, who was in the Havre audience.

Meyers said he had heard from several people who want to curtail trapping rights.

He vowed to fight efforts to make trapping illegal and any attempt to curtail gun rights.


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