Tester Slams Proposal to Sell Public Lands to Pay for Infrastructure

Senator: This Administration’s Infrastructure Plan is “Not Thought Out At All To Get Things Built”

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today took five top Trump Administration officials to task and slammed their proposal to sell Montana’s public lands to pay for an infrastructure plan that provides very little investment in rural America.

During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Tester forcefully rejected Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s suggestion that Montana sell off its public lands to raise matching funds to access Trump’s infrastructure plan. The largest proposed aspect in the Trump infrastructure plan unveiled last month requires state and local governments to come up with an 80 percent funding match to the federal government in order to receive funding to modernize schools, rebuild roads and water systems and bring high-speed internet to rural America.

“I just don’t see where the logic is in expecting states to come up with an 80 percent match,” Tester said. “I can tell you that if it is to sell off their assets, I don’t understand how this plan is well thought out at all to get things built.”

Currently, the state of Montana is required to provide around a 15 percent match to receive federal funds to build and repair highways.

In addition to charging states and local governments more, the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan also relies the construction of toll roads to pay for highway funding and maintenance.

“This infrastructure plan makes for a great press release,” Tester added. “But I am telling you that the state of Montana right now is cutting programs right now because we don’t have money.”

During the hearing, Tester also held Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue accountable for the agency’s proposed budget that eliminates funding for USDA Rural Development’s Water and Wastewater Disposal Loan and Grant Program, which has helped many rural Montana communities construct and upgrade aging water infrastructure.

“Tell me how you justify cutting this infrastructure program and putting forth another infrastructure program that is not going to build any infrastructure,” Tester asked Perdue.

Tester has held multiple infrastructure roundtable discussions in Great Falls, Billings, and Bozeman. Last month, Tester solicited input from Montana counties, cities, and tribes and he invited school districts, hospitals, and business organizations to weigh in on their specific infrastructure needs. Tester’s letter to Montanans can be found HERE.

Tester is demanding that Congress take up its own infrastructure bill this year that invests to improve schools, rebuild roads, expand access to high-speed internet, and upgrade rural water systems.

According to a report, Montana will face an annual budget shortfall of $874 million through 2021 to build and repair highways. The cost of driving on deficient roads in Montana is costing motorists $794 million per year out of their own pocket and 18 percent of Montana’s bridges have shown significant deterioration.