- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has agreed to reimburse the state more than $2,500 for travel using a state-owned plane that coincided with campaign events after Republicans criticized Bullock’s use of the plane, including a Feb. 10 trip to Billings where he helped the homeless and then attended a campaign fundraiser.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports the governor’s legal counsel said Bullock can use state-owned aircraft to fly to a location and attend a campaign event as long as he is also attending official state events on the same day. However, the state must be reimbursed for any increased cost associated with the aircraft as a result of the attendance.

The governor is paying the state for 21 trips. At a cost of about $500 an hour to fly the plane, that averages more than $120 per trip.

Bullock issued a new policy acknowledging that the state needs to be reimbursed for any increased cost, such as the pilots’ time waiting on the ground, if it is associated with campaign-related events.

Bullock spokesman Tim Crowe said trips to Missoula, Bozeman and Billings that included campaign events were primarily for official government business.

Montana GOP spokesman Shane Scanlon said the state plane should not be used for campaign trips.

“It’s simply wrong for Gov. Bullock to campaign on the taxpayers’ dime, and he should reimburse Montanans in-full for the campaign leg of his trips - just like other governors have done,” he said in a statement.

Previous governors from both parties have paid part of the costs in similar situations.

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