Bush’s proposed budget hurts rural Montanans

Tester, colleagues unveil ‘Rural Report Card’ on Capitol Hill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – President Bush's budget will hurt rural Montanans—especially family farmers, ranchers and small businesses, Montana Senator Jon Tester said Friday while unveiling a "Rural Report Card" on the proposed budget with several of his Senate colleagues.

Tester and eight of his colleagues called a press conference on Capitol Hill to outline the President's proposed cuts that directly affect the quality of life of rural Americans.  The cuts are detailed in the senators' Rural Report Card, which is available online here.

"If you have a total disconnect with rural America you put out a budget like the President just put out," Tester said at the news conference. "This budget has no vision for rural America."

Here are some of the key cuts as outlined by the Rural Report Card:

  • Agriculture:     The President's Farm Bill proposal cuts crop safety net and insurance     programs by close to $14 billion over ten years and does not provide     disaster assistance for farmers.
  • Rural     Health Care: The President proposes slashing rural hospital     flexibility grants, the rural and community access to emergency devices     program, and area health education centers, which provide vital health and     health education services to rural areas.
  • Rural     Firefighting Efforts: The proposed budget eliminates funding for the     Department of the Interior's rural fire assistance and eliminates the     state and local fire assistance program.
  • Rural     Economic Development and Energy: The President's budget cuts nearly     $260 million from Rural Housing Assistance funding grants.  Loans to     rural utilities would be cut by more than $1.3 billion from the last     fiscal year.  The budget also contains severe cuts to the Low Income     Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and it cuts funding for wind     energy development.
  • Rural     Education: The President's budget freezes funding for two vital     programs that benefit children in rural America: the Small, Rural     Schools Achievement program and the Rural and Low-Income Schools program.
  • Rural     Law Enforcement: The President's budget would cut $1.4 billion in     funding for all state and local law enforcement programs in the Department     of Justice, including programs specifically designed to help rural     communities.

"The President's budget proposal doesn't take care of folks in rural America, and that's unacceptable," Tester said. "We need to take care of the government's overwhelming deficit, but we can't do it at the expense of rural America. It's a burden all Americans should share."

Joining Tester for today's news conference were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.