Sen. Tester outlines plans to boost Montana economy and jobs
HELENA – U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) on Monday unveiled a multi-faceted plan to improve the state’s economy – and said he hopes to work with incoming President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to achieve it.
“President-elect Trump and I agree: We need to ensure America has fair trade, not free trade,” the two-term Democrat said in a speech to the Montana House in Helena.
On trade, Tester said it’s time to negotiate a new softwood-lumber agreement with Canada, in order to protect Montana timber mills, and fix what he called “unfair wheat grading” by Canada on grain exported from Montana.
“I’ll do my part, and I want the Trump administration to do their part, to ensure Montana farmers can be competitive in the global marketplace,” he said.
Tester outlined his “Employ Montana” program at his Capitol speech, including:
• Increased investment in rural broadband, so rural Montana citizens and businesses can have better access to high-speed Internet.
• Continued investment in highway and municipal construction projects.
• Research on capturing carbon emissions, so coal can continue to be a primary energy source.
• More investment in the Job Corps and two-year colleges, to create a better-trained workforce for the current market.
• Regulation relief for smaller, community banks.
• Requiring the Department of Homeland Security to buy textile products from U.S. companies.
In an interview after the speech, Tester told MTN News that a good part of his plans will require action by Congress and the incoming president.
He also commented during his speech on congressional Republicans’ plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health-reform law also known as “Obama-care.”
Fixing flaws in the law is “just good business,” Tester said, but repealing it without a detailed plan to replace it could undo its many positive elements, such as providing new health coverage to at least 60,000 low-income Montanans, helping rural hospitals and creating health-care jobs.
“Repealing the ACA without a plan for what comes next is not going to lower (health-care) costs,” he told state lawmakers. “Our families’ health care is too important to throw it into chaos.”
“We need to look before we leap. We cannot throw the baby out with the bath water.”