Economy is top priority for Montana, nation

The Billings Gazette

by Jon Tester

For the past decade, both parties have swept America’s debt problem under the carpet. And like most Montanans, I’m fed up with the mess.

But pointing fingers, spinning facts and laying blame won’t cut our debt, create jobs or make our country safer. It’s going to take putting our principles — and the people we serve — above party politics.

That’s why I crossed party lines, becoming the only Senate Democrat to vote against the bailouts of Wall Street and the U.S. auto industry. Last week, I voted to stop the Wall Street bailout and use the remaining dollars to pay down the deficit. This week, I joined Republicans and Democrats to vote to create bipartisan panels to recommend spending cuts.

We’ll only rebuild our economy and create jobs if we put partisan politics aside and work together.

I did just that a few weeks ago, putting hundreds of miles on my pickup to hear from business owners, developers, bankers and educators in cities and towns across the state. I wanted ideas from Main Street for creating jobs and rebuilding our economy.

During each of these meetings, I heard four common themes:
Cut taxes for small businesses;
Expand Montana’s potential for energy development;
Improve access to capital, so Montana businesses can put more people to work;
Grow Montana’s manufacturing economy by helping existing businesses expand and by helping folks start up new businesses.

I couldn’t agree more. So in the coming weeks, I’ll be working to turn Montanans’ ideas into workable solutions.

I also learned that Montanans aren’t getting a fair shake when it comes to landing contracts with the federal government. So I’m pushing new rules to reform the way government agencies award contracts, so Montana businesses can compete — and win — on a level playing field.

A few weeks from now, on Feb. 19, I’m hosting a daylong workshop in Bozeman for Montana’s businesses and contractors. I held a similar event last summer in Great Falls. It was a success. My upcoming workshop will be another opportunity for Montanans to land new jobs by directly networking and learning from various federal agencies.

Another way that we can create and save jobs in Montana is with the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. I introduced this jobs bill as a groundbreaking new plan for managing our forests after working closely with timber companies, conservationists, outdoorsmen and motor sports enthusiasts. They put their differences aside and came up with a plan they could all agree on.

Without this bill, Montana will lose the infrastructure needed to keep our timber industry a strong part of Montana’s outdoor heritage. And if we lose our timber industry, we lose our ability to manage our forests. With thousands of jobs on the line, Montana deserves no less.

And as your U.S. senator, I promise you I’ll keep working hard, and working together, to do what’s right for our state—for Montana’s families, veterans, farms and ranches, and for Main Street businesses.

Democrat Jon Tester is a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy.