HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock signed or let become law 76 bills Tuesday, including ones to crack down on sexual abusers of children and to increase funding for state parks.
But he also vetoed eight measures sponsored by Republicans, including a bill touted by GOP legislative leaders as a key economic-development incentive, creating tax credits for businesses that hire new employees at good-paying jobs.
“I think it’s disappointing,” said Sen. Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell, the sponsor of the business tax-credit bill. “When we look at realistic job-growth in this state, not only to help current businesses grow, but to attract new businesses, this is a proven economic tool.”
Blasdel said it’s been successful in Colorado, supported by a Democratic governor, and that he felt it could work in Montana too.
Bullock also vetoed bills that would have banned sanctuary cities in Montana, created penalties for restricting free speech on Montana college campuses, given counties veto power over relocation of wild bison, and created a school marshal program that would have allowed officers to carry concealed weapons.
Bullock, a Democrat, held a bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol Tuesday, where he was joined by supporters of 26 of the 74 bills that he signed into law. He also let two bills become law without his signature.
Among the bills signed at the ceremony were:
• Two measures to crack down on sexual abuse of children, sponsored by Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula. One makes it illegal for teachers to have sexual relations with any student in 12th grade or lower; another lengthens the time limit for victims of molestation to sue their abusers for damages.
• A bill extending Montana’s tax credits for film production in the state.
• A bill increasing funding for state parks and fishing-access sites by almost $4 million a year, by increasing the parks fee on vehicle registration from $6 to $9 a year.
In his veto message on the tax-credit bill, Bullock said Senate Bill 266 would “allocate public monies to reward existing growth at the largest employers,” rather than helping encourage smaller businesses in rural areas.
The bill offered the income-tax credit to businesses that hire at least 10 new people earning at least $45,000 a year.
“Employers with the capacity to create at least 10 new jobs in a year will likely do so with or without a tax credit,” the governor wrote.
But Blasdel said the 10-employee level came at the suggestion of the governor’s office, instead of a lower level that Blasdel had in the original bill.
“Why would we not want to support job growth of jobs at $45,000 a year, plus benefits, in the state of Montana?” he said.