Tester secures Montana priorities in bipartisan bill

Year-end funding bill cuts $6 billion in spending, invests in firefighters, education, public access

(U.S. SENATE) – From new tools for Montana firefighters to education to improved access to public lands, Senator Jon Tester today highlighted provisions he secured for Montana in the bipartisan year-end funding bill.

The Senate is now expected to pass the legislation, which cuts $6 billion in government spending compared to last year.

“After some pretty extreme proposals by the House of Representatives over the past year, we’ve made this agreement better for Montana,” Tester said.  “Now Congress needs to start getting to work on cutting our deficit over the long-term.  That – not irresponsibly wiping out the things that create Montana jobs – is what this nation truly needs to rebuild our economy and strengthen it for the future.”

Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and a member of the Senate Appropriations committee, secured several funding priorities for Montana that were included in the final legislation. Highlights include:

• Restored funding for the Assistance for Firefighters grant program, allowing rural fire departments to hire more firefighters.  House leaders originally tried to cut this funding.

• Restored funding for education and family and children’s health initiatives, which House leaders also tried to cut earlier this year.

• Tester’s language requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop common stands for levee inspections in flood zones—for the purposes of flood insurance. This provision will improve coordination and cooperation between the two agencies as FEMA continues its plan to review levee safety nationwide.

• As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee, Tester secured additional overall funding for veterans’ health care, including improved tele-health care in rural areas like Montana, initiatives for homeless veterans, women veterans, and those suffering from mental health conditions.

• Restored funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  The LWCF is considered a top priority for Montana hunters and anglers, improving access and protections for public land.  Tester successfully secured $322 million for LWCF—five times what the House of Representatives requested.

• Tester’s language, similar Tester’s bipartisan bill (S. 1712), requiring the federal government to make publicly available detailed Equal Access to Justice (EAJA) fee information.

• Tester secured full funding ($1 million) for the Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Program, which he created several years ago.  The initiative compensates ranchers whose animals are killed by wolves.

• Tester secured a six-percent increase in funding for the Indian Health Service, primarily to hire additional doctors, nurses and care providers.