Joe Balyeat has resigned from the Montana Senate, citing concern for taxpayer dollars.
“It wasn’t for any negative reason,” said Balyeat of Senate District 34.
Balyeat sent a letter Monday to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Senate President Jim Peterson, saying his resignation would be effective June 6, about six months prior to the end of his final term.
Balyeat has served in the Senate since 2005 and cannot run again under Montana’s term limits.
“While legislators draw no salary when we’re not in session, we still receive a state contribution to our health insurance, and receive slight increases in retirement benefits as well,” Balyeat wrote in his resignation letter. “It has occurred to me that I could save Montana taxpayers some money by resigning a few months early.”
Legislators have the option of participating in the state employee health plan. Whether they use the state plan or another insurance plan, the state offers them up to $733 a month toward the cost of insurance.
However, legislators can decline coverage, and seven legislators did in 2011.
The Legislature convenes only in odd-numbered years, but in the off-years, many legislators still serve on interim committees.
Balyeat was one of eight members of the Economic Affairs Interim Committee, which still has two meetings scheduled this year.
A two-day meeting on June 11 and 12 includes several decisions and panels, including one that Balyeat requested on insurers’ response in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, said committee research analyst Pat Murdo.
“There are no scheduled major decisions that have to be made, although things can always come up,” Murdo said. “But his absence probably won’t affect any votes.”
Murdo said the Senate leadership could assign a replacement to the committee but there isn’t enough time before the June meeting. The last meeting is Aug. 28.
Balyeat wrote that he thought taxpayers have already received their money’s worth from his service.
“My early resignation will also save taxpayers a little money, and will me free to pursue other business endeavors… of which I have many,” Balyeat wrote.
Balyeat is an accountant and said he has been rebuilding his client base, plus he’s writing a couple books.
Secretary of State spokeswoman Terri McCoy verified that the office received Balyeat’s resignation.
“At this time, our chief legal counsel is looking into the matter and will determine next week if the seat vacated by Balyeat will be filled from now through the general election,” McCoy said.
Candidates Scott Sales, a Republican, and Michael Comstock, on the Democrat ticket, are campaigning for Balyeat’s seat.
Laura Lundquist can be reached at 582-2638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.