‘Montana Wins Big’ as Tester Secures Major Victories, Defends Rural Way of Life
Senator Delivers Better Health Care, Stronger Borders, High-Speed Internet, Access to Public Lands
(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today delivered for Montana, securing in the federal funding bill provisions to improve health care and infrastructure, strengthen borders, and increase access to public lands.
Tester, a member of the Appropriations Committee, authored the Homeland Security portion of the bill while successfully securing responsible investments in other sections of the bipartisan measure.
"Montana wins big with this plan," Tester said. "From expanding access to high-speed internet to building new roads and strengthening rural schools, this budget reflects Montana's priorities. This is the result of Republicans and Democrats working together and it's proof of what can happen when folks put politics aside to get things done."
In addition to delivering critical resources that will strengthen border security, protect Montana farmers and ranchers from harmful regulations, fix the way the federal government pays to fight wildfires, and build the Southwest Montana Veterans Home in Butte, Tester secured the following provisions in the bipartisan funding bill:
- $600 million to expand access to high-speed internet in rural areas.
- $2.5 billion increase to construct and repair highways and bridges.
- $1 billion increase for the Airport Improvement Program, which has helped airports expand in Bozeman, Missoula, Great Falls, Billings, Kalispell, Butte, and other Montana communities.
- $1.5 billion for the popular TIGER grant initiative that has helped Montana communities make transformative infrastructure investments to increase economic activity.
- $120 million for rural water funds to support Bureau of Reclamation projects serving of thousands of rural Montanans.
- $2.8 billion for safe drinking and clean water infrastructure, including drinking water systems, wastewater treatment, and storm water management.
- $15 million for the Rural Residency Development Program to train new doctors in rural communities.
- $1.8 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant to help combat the meth epidemic.
- $723 million for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant to increase access to mental health care.
- $286 million for family planning and contraceptive care for low-income and underinsured people.
- $180 million to provide additional resources to rural schools to hire teachers, support student health and safety, and maintain quality standards.
- Increases the amount of Pell Grants Montana students can receive to pay their college tuition.
- $1 billion to TRIO to help first generation college students earn their diploma.
- $90 million for School Safety grants.
- $1.1 billion to increase access to technical education for Montanans who prefer to work with their hands.
Transportation and Agriculture
- Delays the implementation of Electronic Logging Devices for Montana livestock haulers, which would make it harder for ranchers to bring their livestock to market.
- Rejects the Administration's request to close Fort Keogh Research Laboratory in Miles City.
- Fully funds the Essential Air Service that serves seven Montana airports.
- Fully funds long distance Amtrak trains, including the Empire Builder line.
National Parks and Public Lands
- $150 million increase for deferred maintenance and construction at National Parks.
- $425 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase public access to public lands.
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund is our nation's most effective conservation tool," said Tester. "Investing these resources in our public lands will pay dividends. I will keep fighting to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF so we can ensure Montanans have access to our state's most treasured places."
Tester also blocked a controversial proposal from being included in the funding bill that would have required all Montana businesses to pay an online sales tax.
The House has passed this bill and the Senate is scheduled to vote on it over the next couple of days.