Schweitzer hands off big budget plans to Bullock

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012
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Schweitzer argued his administration has maintained budget surpluses through a national recession without raising taxes.

His current proposal is packed with a fix to the pension system that asks employers and employees both to pay more, an idea lawmakers have begrudgingly advanced after failing to come up with an alternative. Schweitzer was critical of county governments that don't want to kick in more for their employees.

"We actually have a plan. The rest of those cats don't," the governor said.

The budget also includes more money aimed at reducing repeat criminal offenders, and funding to help eastern Montana oil-boom towns deal with overburdened infrastructure.

Schweitzer recognized the budget proposal is perhaps one last hurrah, and the governor's reception room was packed with staff and others who applauded him after he spoke and answered questions for nearly an hour.

"It has been an extreme honor to serve the people of Montana for the past eight years," Schweitzer said. "I believe with all my heart that we are passing the state on to the next administration in better shape than we found it, by a lot."

The governor said he thinks the state is "in good hands" with Bullock, the Democratic attorney general who won last week.

Schweitzer has not said what he plans to do after leaving office, although he has been a more frequent contributor on cable news networks and has been mentioned by some as a possible dark horse contender for president in 2016.