Schweitzer offers thoughts on various topics as term ends

2012-11-25T00:10:00Z Schweitzer offers thoughts on various topics as term endsBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON and MIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — Outspoken until the end, Gov. Brian Schweitzer had some other thoughts on various topics in an interview with Gazette State Bureau reporters as he prepares to leave office:

ON CHARGES THAT HE WAS A BULLY: “Who did I ever bully?” Schweitzer said. “State employees? What is there to fear? We have directors who run these agencies. Has there been a dozen people who’ve worked for the state of Montana out of 16,000 that have been fired over the course of the last eight years? I don’t know who they’d be. Was I involved in any of that? I doubt it. Can you imagine a Republican administration taking over after 20 years of Democratic administrations and not purging it of Democrats? We didn’t do any of that. ...

“The narrative that ends up to be painted that, gosh, that I was a bully and I was mean. … Ask my staff. I’m driven. I don’t know that anybody has ever seen me dress anyone down around here. That’s not my style."

ON HIS TOUGHEST DECISIONS: “When I let directors go,” Schweitzer said.

ON HIS BIGGEST REGRET: “We should have split DPHHS (the 2,900-employee Department of Public Health and Human Services),” he said. “It’s an agency that is cumbersome and difficult to run. I thought about it many times. I should have split the agency into at least two, and it would have been a much better agency for the human service function and for the health function.”

Schweitzer also regrets not getting rid of more state boards and commissions.

“I tried to get rid of some of them in the last Legislature, but Republicans opposed it,” he said.

ON WHY HE CHOSE A `NO NEW TAXES’ STAND AFTER GETTING ELECTED: “Isn’t that a better way to have a politician say that after the election, than to use it to get elected, and then change their mind?” he said. “We didn’t raise taxes because I didn’t think we needed to. I saw fat in government; I thought we could take that fat out.”

ON LEGISLATORS AND LOBBYISTS: “And I will say again that I’m not going to apologize to anybody for suggesting a couple of things,” he said. “First, that this Legislature is the cheapest to buy in America, that campaign contributions until recently have been very low, and that the lobbyists here in this town, with some old whiskey and some thick steaks, are able to move legislators to do things that are bad for the folks back home. It’s been going on since I’ve been here, and I’m sure it’s gone on a long time before.”

ON HIS ADVICE TO LEGISLATORS: “Don’t show up when they (lobbyists) have a free lunch for you. Don’t show up down at Jorgenson’s. Don’t show up down at the Montana Club. Don’t show up. Make your own food at home. Don’t take that drink. Don’t take that food. If you believe that you have been cast aspersions upon you because you’re going to these things, then don’t go to them. Make your own meal. But until you do that, the assumption is going to be that your vote has been bought for an old whiskey and a big steak. And in some cases, it has.”

ON LOBBYISTS: “You ever see them come in here? They don’t,” Schweitzer said. “They don’t even come around. I don’t drink their whiskey. I don’t eat their food. I don’t take any PAC (political action committee) money. We’re not popular with them. They’ll be happy to see us go.

“I’ve never been particularly interested in somebody’s opinion when they’ve been paid to have that opinion. That’s not their opinion. That’s the opinion of corporate headquarters that told them this is what we want to get done. …

“And I’ll tell you what. It doesn’t worry me a damn bit that these lobbyists are glad to see me go. And I never built a relationship with them, and I’m proud of that."

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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