The Petty Perspective From Within King Schweitzer’s Glass House


Brian Schweitzer and Kendall Van Dyk think Republican legislators are hypocrites and boozers.

Governor Schweitzer really loves Montana’s legislature.  In light of the high rate of compensation ($10 or so/hour) the lawmakers  rake in at work, he wants them to provide their own personal laptop computers for legislative use.  After all, they are making the big bucks while working during Montana’s biennial session.   Today Schweitzer blasted Republican leadership for approving laptop purchases for legislators, calling them hypocrites for campaigning on fiscally conservative platforms.  Schweitzer said that he stopped all computer purchases in the executive branch a few months ago to save money. He says he now only purchases computers if absolutely necessary.

There is no word on whether the governor’s staff uses their personal computers at work, but House Majority leader Tom McGillvray doesn’t seem to think so.  Schweitzer’s comparison to the ban on new executive branch computers is flawed because none of those state employees are required to use their own personal computer. And neither should lawmakers, McGillvray said.

The “feed bill”, which pays for operation of the legislature was approved Monday containing a computer stipend capped at $1000 for lawmakers.   Since 2007, legislators have been given a stipend of up to $1,500 to buy a laptop computer for their own use.

Some democrats plan to oppose the bill.   Sen. Kendall Van Dyk of Billings said tea party-backed Republicans who have trashed government spending need to live by their own rhetoric. He pointed out lawmakers get to keep the laptops even if they lose their next election.  “Before they do any legislative action up here they sign up for a free computer and free health care all on the taxpayer dime,” he said. “Given the economic times where you are talking about a Republican majority that is looking at cutting $360 million, maybe they should back away from the government trough before they start making cuts to education.”

“On one hand they come to town and they want to cut the size of government — does that mean all of government except themselves?” Schweitzer said. “I think if you are running for public office you probably have a personal laptop and that should be good enough.”  Last I checked, Brian Schweitzer was indeed an elected official.  I’m guessing he probably doesn’t use his own personal laptop for work but I could be mistaken.  Where does Governor Schweitzer live?  Perhaps he should forgo his accommodations at the Governor’s Mansion in favor of an more economical Airstream?  Surely the state could make some extra money by turning the governor’s house into a Bed and Breakfast… although I doubt Travelocity and Expedia would assist.  And Sen. Van Dyk…. I’m guessing you are working without compensation or health insurance?

Anyone who has known a state legislator (or has cared to research the issue) is probably aware that the service they provide is a substantial sacrifice.  Their compensation is actually rather minimal and they reside away from their families during the session.  Governor Schweitzer has consistently criticized the entire legislature for everything from being “boozers” to being fed by lobbyists.  For a guy who keeps talking about bipartisanship and working together to pass an adequate budget, he sure has an interesting way of displaying his affection.

I’m not sure how things work in the Montana state government, but I’ve never had an employer expect or even allow me to use my personal computer at work,  primarily due to security concerns.  I do believe that the computers purchased with legislative stipends should probably belong to the state and that upon leaving the legislature, they should be returned.

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5 thoughts on “The Petty Perspective From Within King Schweitzer’s Glass House

  1. He found another winning populist idea, “them dang computers”. Why do elected officials need one of them newfangled things?

  2. i think that there should be a laptop or atleast computer available for all legislators if they choose to use one. they can check it out while they are at the capital and return it upon their departure back to their district. it’s hard for me to believe that they don’t mostly own their own anyhow. what’s the problem with using their own? everybody always knows how to operate their own better than a new one anyhow. it’s all public data…..so i don’t see the issue with using their own.

    but to purchase one they get to then take home with them even if they do not run for re-election is blasphemy. the tax payers should not be buying people computers just because they chose to be legislators.

    • Whether legislators own their own computers or not, they are employees of the state and shouldn’t be forced to use their own equipment for work. The are only paid for the time they are in the session while they are required to be available to their constituents until they are no longer in office. I would imagine that requires them to respond to thousands of emails throughout their terms. Legislators already sacrifice to serve. We should not have any additional policies that contribute to the wealthy being the only ones who can afford to serve our state.

  3. This is a case of majoring in the minors here. First of all legislators DO NOT only work for 90 days – they are elected for either 2 or 4 years. In addition to the session, each legislator is also assigned to work on interim committees that meet throughout the term. They are also responsible to review any administrative rules that implement any bill they sponsor, and to be available to their constituents for the entire term. They receive pay when they are in Helena, but not during the time they are in their home districts, even if they are doing legislative business.

    There’s a difference between being fiscally responsible as opposed to displaying a pavlovian, knee jerk reaction for political one-upsmanship. Even though I probably philosophically disagree with over a third of the current legislators, I applaud and respect the service and sacrifices of each and every one of them. Providing our elected representatives with the tools they need to do the job we elected them to do is our responsibility.

    Schweitzer is, of course, playing his usual disgusting partisan games and should be ashamed of himself.

    • I agree completely. Buying a laptop for use use by the legislators is the least of our concerns. I’d like to know if Kendall Van Dyk took the stipend- the way he talks, you’d think that he also refuses a salary? Today they are upset that legislators are eligible for health insurance through their employer, the state of Montana. Because the GOP opposes Obamacare, they accuse them of being hypocritical. The GOP isn’t opposed to employers providing health insurance, but forcing Americans to purchase a product of any kind- simply because they are alive- is very un-American.

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