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.