Tester Meets With Kalispell Officials

Senator, city leaders discuss infrastructure, health care & meth crisis

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester met with leaders from Kalispell this week to talk about issues facing folks in the Flathead.

Mayor Mark Johnson, Councilmember Rod Kuntz, City Manager Doug Russell, Fire Chief Dave Dedman, and Police Chief Doug Overman met with Tester in his Washington D.C. office on Wednesday, where they discussed infrastructure, health care, and the methamphetamine crisis.

“It’s important for me to hear from folks on the ground who know best what their communities need to succeed,” Tester said. “I was glad to have the opportunity to visit with Kalispell’s leadership to discuss what we can do at a federal level to ensure they have the tools they need to help the Flathead thrive.”

During the meeting, Tester talked about his work to improve emergency medical services. Last year, Tester helped pass the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which included a five year extension of Medicare ambulance add-on payments that allows rural emergency services to be reimbursed. Tester has also fought for federal funding to implement the SIREN Act, which supports public and non-profit emergency medical services in rural areas.

The group also discussed Tester’s efforts to address the escalating drug crisis in Montana. Tester recently pushed back on the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The Byrne JAG program supports the Northwest Task Force, one of seven multi-jurisdictional taskforces across Montana with a mission to combat illegal drug use in Montana. Trump’s proposed budget would cut funding from Byrne JAG next year, but Tester is working to keep the funding strong at $423 million.

Tester also congratulated the group on Kalispell’s success in completing and securing funding for critical infrastructure projects like the Kalispell Rail Park. The city recently received a $12.75 million grant through the BUILD program to expand the Kalispell Bypass, which Tester helped advocate for. Tester told the group he is committed to delivering more infrastructure funding for Montana and the Flathead in the very near future.