Tester: Upholding treaty and trust responsibilities is not optional

Vice-Chairman fights for responsible investments in Native American communities

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today pushed Congress and the Obama Administration to make responsible investments to create jobs, improve health, and boost education in Indian Country.

During two separate hearings, Tester questioned high-level Obama Administration officials on the President’s 2017 proposed budget, which includes funding for Indian Health Service (IHS), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), Indian Housing Block Grants, and economic development initiatives in Native American communities.

“Upholding treaty and trust responsibilities is not optional,” said Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “This proposed budget is a step in the right direction, but without more responsible investments, it is clear that obligations will remain unmet in Native communities.”

During an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Tester voiced his support for the proposed $122 million increase in funding for IHS hospitals and health clinics. However, even if Congress approves the funding increase, IHS would still remain underfunded by nearly 50 percent.

Later in the day, during an Indian Affairs Committee hearing, Tester pushed Interior officials to provide more details on the agency’s plan to invest $138 million for BIE school construction and maintenance. Tester is sponsoring the SAFETY Act, which further invests in school infrastructure and requires the BIE to develop a 10-year plan for school construction to ensure long-term school construction projects are completed.

Tester also supports the proposed budget for Indian Housing Block Grants and Indian Community Development Block Grants, which collectively could increase by $70 million from last year.

The President’s 2017 proposed budget also includes $42 million for increased job placement and training, natural resource development, and guaranteed loan insurance for small business owners.

“While this budget is a positive step forward, we must also make sure our investments are making a difference on the ground,” said Tester following the hearing. “That requires transparency, accountability, and folks working together to strengthen Indian Country.”

Tester, a member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, will help craft and vote on the Senate Interior Appropriations Bill that impacts Indian Country later this year.