HELENA — Incoming Senate President Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, expressed regret Wednesday that Gov. Brian Schweitzer changed his mind and decided against allowing legislative budget committee chairmen to question his directors and him next month.
“Obviously, I'm disappointed,” Peterson said Wednesday.
“I don't know what he's got to hide. To me, that's the name of the game. I'm going to play the cards face up, and I'm going to walk the talk, not just talk the talk.”
At a meeting Tuesday, Peterson and incoming House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, asked Schweitzer and his directors to meet with these legislators Dec. 7 to answer questions about the governor's proposed state budget.
Schweitzer initially agreed, but by later Tuesday, he had changed his mind. Budgets are a very small part of directors' jobs, and they are busy with other responsibilities, he said.
“Bottom line, they've got a staff twice the size of ours,” Schweitzer said, referring to the legislators' own fiscal staff.
“If they've got questions, they'll answer them. Just because the Legislature comes to town doesn't mean they can sequester all the directors to answer questions.”
Peterson said he wasn't trying to be disrespectful by seeking the meeting.
He said Republican leaders are just trying to understand “some of the major departures in policy” with the funding shifts in the Democratic governor's proposed budget.
“It's no small deal to take the oil and gas money from the east and to distribute it statewide,” Peterson said.
“It's not a small deal to take the money out of the Treasure State Endowment fund and move it to the general fund. Those are issues that require careful analysis and study, and that's all I'm asking.”
For the first time since taking office as governor in 2005, Schweitzer will face a Legislature where Republicans control both houses.