On Senate Floor, Tester Urges Quick Action on Bipartisan Infrastructure Package
Senator: “This bill comes down to the economy. It comes down to creating jobs and putting America to work.”
After introducing the final text of his bipartisan infrastructure package to the United States Senate over the weekend, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week urged the Senate to quickly pass the legislation while speaking on the Senate floor.
"Sixty years ago it was 13.5 miles to the closest patch of pavement from my farm," said Tester. "Then I was about four or five years old, and I remember riding with my dad in a GM, 1954 GMC 300 truck on that dirt road, hauling wheat to town. A little more than ten years later, that final four mile stretch was paved, so we could access that highway. So why is that important? That's important because not only did it reduce our cost on the farm in things like tires, and pins, and bushings, and ball joints, but it made our farm more profitable. Because of investments that my grandfather and my father's generations made, not only did it help them at the time, but it helps me to this day."
Tester continued: "This bill comes down to the economy. It comes down to creating jobs and putting America to work and it's about our national security. It allows us to compete with China in a way that we're losing right now."
Tester secured a number of wins for Montana in the legislation, including:
- $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements, including settlements for the Blackfeet, Crow, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
- $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation, including Fort Peck/Dry Prairie, Rocky Boys/North Central, and Musselshell-Judith rural water systems.
- Up to $100 million for rehabilitating the Milk River Project.
- Clarifies that American Rescue Plan Act state and local fiscal recovery funds may be used towards the state or federal cost share to rehabilitate Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure.
- $3.5 billion for Indian Health Service Sanitation Construction program, providing water, sewage, and sanitation services to Tribal households.
- $7 billion for Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure priorities to improve flood mitigation.
- $350 million of that for Army Corps CAP funding (which includes Section 205 levee projects) - Senator Tester helped secure a $100 million increase for the CAP program.
- $3.5 billion for the Federal Emergency and Management Agency Flood Mitigation Assistance program.
- $2.2 billion for the Aging Infrastructure Account, including to the Bureau of Reclamation for water infrastructure projects across the West that are in need of major upgrades or replacement.
- $500 million for the Western Area Power Administration's power purchase and transmission activities.
- Tester-Moran bill to extend the Internal Revenue Service tax filing deadlines in Fire Management Assistance Grant areas after significant fires.
- $3.37 billion for reducing wildfire risk, including hazardous fuels treatments, wildland firefighter salaries, fire research, and grants to communities to reduce wildfire risks.
- $11.2 billion in grants for states and Tribes to reclaim abandoned mine lands.
- A portion of the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act of 2021, which cuts burdensome hours of service requirements that can prevent ag and livestock haulers from doing their jobs safely, and gives them the flexibility to ensure more of Montana's world-class products can make it to market.
- DRIVE Safe Act, which creates a pilot program that lifts federal regulations that prevent Montana truck drivers under 21 years of age from transporting goods across state lines and establishes a new training initiative for 18 to 20-year-old truck drivers.
- Right Track Act & Blocked Railroad Crossing Bill, which improve safety at rural train crossings and addresses instances of blocked highway-railroad crossings across the U.S.
- $15 million to study Amtrak long-distance passenger rail travel. This includes funding and authorization to form working groups, like the Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Working Group, to study and advocate for increased access to long-distance passenger rail travel.
- $304 billion over 5 years for the regular highway program funded from the Highway Trust Fund, including approximately $2.82 billion for Montana highways over the same timeframe.
- An additional $225 million for a new bridge initiative to replace and repair bridges in poor condition throughout Montana.
- The transit program funded out of the Highway Trust Fund will increase rural transit initiatives by roughly 30 percent.
- Montana will receive $164 million over 5 years to bolster its public transit infrastructure.
- $42.45 billion grant program for broadband deployment to areas of the country lacking access to internet service, including:
- $4.2 billion set aside for high-cost, geographically-challenged areas that are especially difficult and expensive to connect.
- $100 million allocation to each state distributed during the planning and proposal stage, with up to $5 million in funding to support state broadband office activities including planning, coordination, and grant administration.
- $2 billion for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which will help Tribal entities with broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning.
- $2 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that provide loans and grants to fund broadband service deployment and maintenance in rural areas.
- Support for state broadband offices.
- $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act, which funds digital equity and inclusion projects to ensure communities have the information technological capacity, equipment, and skills to fully participate in today's digital economy.
- $14.2 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which helps families pay their internet bills. As of July 28, 2021, 5,498 households in Montana have enrolled in this program.
- Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Development Act, which will help address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry.
• $3.85 billion for Land Ports of Entry to modernize and secure the Northern and Southern border, including millions of dollars for Montana's ports of entry.
Tester will continue to provide additional details about the legislation as they become available.
Last month, after months of negotiations, Tester and the bipartisan group of nine other Senators went to the White House to announce they had reached an agreement on the framework of a historic, bipartisan infrastructure package to create good-paying jobs by making urgently-needed investments in Montana's roads, bridges, broadband, water and more. Earlier this week, Tester announced that text of the legislation had been completed and that the Senate would immediately move to take up the legislation.