Federal budget proposal has lasting impact on state's economy

by Sen. Jon Tester , Belgrade News

When my wife Sharla and I sit down to do our budget each year we outline our priorities. Whether it’s spending more money on new equipment or spending a little less and fixing it up yourself – it’s a balancing act and you see what our priorities are.

The same can be said of our government’s budget. Earlier this year, President Trump presented Congress an outline of his budget and at first glance I’m concerned about how his priorities impact the economic security of Montana and rural America.

I applaud the President for strengthening our national security. There is nothing more important than keeping our country safe. But with a little Montana common sense, I know we can have a strong national defense without sacrificing the strength of our schools, our public lands, and our access to quality, affordable health care.

This proposed budget takes a chainsaw to the support system for Gallatin County farmers and ranchers. With this budget, farmers and ranchers won’t have the certainty they need to feed our country.

Last year, Gallatin County received $1,635,635 in Payments in Lieu of Taxes money to help build roads, bridges, and water systems. The budget also proposes to reduce PILT and that will make it harder for Gallatin County to balance its budget.

The cuts to our infrastructure will make it harder for Montanans to get around the state or to enjoy Montana’s public lands.

The elimination of the Essential Air Service will hurt businesses and families in Central and Eastern Montana traveling for work or to get to a doctor’s appointment.

The bottom line is this: I’m deeply concerned that with this budget, we will see fewer jobs which will have lasting impacts on our state’s economy.

There is no doubt, we need to get our fiscal house in order in this country. That’s why I introduced a Constitutional amendment that requires a balanced budget. But we can’t balance the budget without working together to tackle the real issues.

We need to reform the tax code and make it fairer for Montanans. But slashing services that bolster rural communities won’t help this country grow; it will drive folks to bigger cities and more populous states. This budget could be another nail in the coffin of rural America.

If Gallatin County’s Farm Service Agency office closes, it will mean more travel and more difficulties in doing business. If one or two employees leave an office, a farmer will see longer lines and less time in the field.

If a senior citizen from Glasgow can’t get on an Essential Air flight to get to Billings to see a cardiologist, it will be harder for her to live in the community she helped build.

Our rural communities and families are the backbone of this great nation, and I will keep fighting to make sure their voices are heard in Washington