Tester Scores Wins for Montana as Annual Spending Bill Passes Senate
Bipartisan spending package bringing millions in investments into Treasure State moves past key hurdle
Following the Senate’s passage of several annual spending bills, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is celebrating the inclusion of a number of provisions that will provide critical funding to Montana agriculture, infrastructure, public lands, and Indian Country.
“This bipartisan spending bill will help us make smart investments in Montana’s agriculture, infrastructure, public lands, safety, and Indian Country,” said Tester. “Though it’s still missing full funding for programs like LWCF—which the Majority Leader refuses to bring up for a vote—it will help keep roofs over heads and gas in the tank for families all across the Big Sky.”
Tester also successfully attached two amendments to today’s bills, the first to address a longstanding public access issue at the Agricultural Research Facility in Miles City, and the second to increase funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Anti-meth program to $13 million. He also supported amendments to increase funding for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to $8 million, as well as to require the United States Department of Agriculture to prioritize staffing issues within the Rural Housing Service.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is responsible for writing the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government each year. Today, the Senate passed a “minibus” funding package of four appropriations bills that includes many provisions that will directly benefit Montana.
- Funding for new employees and requiring a report on all vacancies, including at the Agricultural Research Station in Sidney.
- $16.5 million to promulgate and implement a federal hemp plan, as well as $2.5 million for research on hemp production systems. The bill provides access to guaranteed loans for hemp producers, and encourages hemp research and education.
- Acknowledgement of a trade barrier related to herbicide tolerances, and recognizes the need for research into contamination sources, encourages the Agriculture Secretary to provide competitive grants to study the issue.
- Language underscoring the severe cattle losses in a few regions, including the Rocky Mountains. The language encourages USDA to prioritize the Farm Bill updates to the Livestock Indemnity Program so that assistance is provided to producers as soon as possible.
- Prioritization of Canadian wheat grading, as well as the Varietal Registration System, because Canada maintains a VRS that is tied to its grading system, strictly limiting the varieties of wheat that can be included in its premium classes.
- Increases in funding for the Wheat and Barley Scab program, and funds the Organic Transition Program at $6 million.
- $5 million for state and Tribal agencies to manage chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer populations to help contain the spread of the disease in wildlife populations in Montana and other states.
- Require USDA to prioritize maintenance and staff needs in the Rural Housing Services.
Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development
- $3.8 billion for Airport Improvement Program grants.
- $10 million to maintain funding for the Small Community Air Service Development Program.
- $5 million to address pilot and aviation maintenance workforce shortages.
- Boosts funding for Amtrak’s Empire Builder and restores ticket agents in Shelby and Havre.
- $1 billion for the BUILD grant program.
- Fully funds University Transportation Centers (UTCs), including Montana State University’s consortium of UTCs on improving rural mobility.
- Exempts livestock haulers from ELD hours of service requirements through FY20.
- $3.325 billion for Community Development Block Grants.
- $1.25 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships program.
Interior, Environment, and Public Lands
- $2.7 billion in EPA state revolving funds to support water infrastructure.
- $1.16 billion for Superfund cleanup, enforcement, and research.
- Fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program at $500 million.
- $465 million for the LWCF, including $21.75 million in funding for conservation projects across Montana (listed below). Tester continues to fight for the full $900 million in authorized funding for the LWCF and has introduced his Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act every Congress since 2009. He is the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to consistently request full funding for the LWCF.
- $8 million for the Clearwater Blackfoot Project in the Lolo National Forest.
- $4.4 million for the Lolo Trails Landmark Project in the Lolo National Forest.
- $1 million for the Falls Creek Access Project in the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
- $2 million for Montana National Wildlife Refuges and Conservation Areas.
- $3.5 million for the Blackfoot River Watershed.
- $2.85 million for the Lost Trail Conservation Project.
- Implements the wildfire funding fix Senator Tester fought for in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill. This frees up $2.25 billion in additional funding that Interior and Forest Service can tap into when fire spending goes above the ten year average, eliminating the need for Forest Service to borrow from its other programs when firefighting costs run over budget.
- $172.3 million for Nonpoint Source Management Program grants, helping control waste runoff into rivers and lakes.
- $25 million for monitoring and testing of PFAs across the agencies, and the bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize its maximum contaminant levels for the two most damaging chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Transboundary Watershed Management: $1.5 million for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) streamgages to monitor transboundary watersheds and continuing support for monitoring at Lake Koocanusca. Additionally, the EPA and State Departments are directed to coordinate with local stakeholders and provide a report to the Committee on remaining data gaps for the watershed.
- Encourages the Interior Department to work with the Blackfeet tribe to protect Badger-Two Medicine and directs them to report to the Committee on their progress.
- Urges the EPA to ensure that any remaining settlement funding from W.R. Grace is available for the Libby Community to conduct operations and maintenance once cleanup activities are completed at the Superfund site.
- $158.8 million (five percent) set-aside for Tribes from the Crime Victims Fund.
- $1 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) investigations and other services related missing persons and murder cases.
- $6 million for implementation and continuation of the special Tribal jurisdiction under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help Native communities prosecute domestic violence crimes.
- $1 million for Department of Justice (DOJ) research on violence against Native American Women.
- $1 million for criminal and investigative services to focus on cold and unsolved cases.
- Directs the BIA and DOJ to improve coordination—including data sharing, training, and technical assistance, and other resources—to better address and prevent these crimes.
- $419 million to Public Safety and Justice Initiatives at the BIA.
- $2 million for equipment to help Tribal law enforcement collect and preserve crime scene evidence.
- $2.5 million for BIA to operate new advanced training for detectives and forensics in the Great Plains region.
- $7.5 million to hire drug enforcement officers and assist in drug-related issues.
- $40.3 million for construction funding, including report language acknowledging the backlog of public safety facility renovations in Indian Country.
- $1 million for expediting background checks to hire new Tribal law enforcement officers.
- $53.2 million for Urban Indian Health Programs.
- $57.8 million for the Indian Health Professions program and $44 million for the Indian Health Service (IHS) Repayment Program, which help HIS recruit and retain staff.
- $11.5 million for new and replacement IHS staff quarters.
- $2 million for Native language immersion program grants for non-BIE funded schools, private nonprofits, and Tribal organizations.
- Requires BIA to conduct a study on law enforcement staffing needs and how to improve the hiring and retention of Tribal law enforcement officers.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety
- $3.17 billion for the Crime Victim Fund, which includes the five percent set-aside for Tribes.
- $500 million for the Violence Against Women Act, which includes $43.5 million for victims services and violence prevention in rural communities and $36.5 million for transitional housing.
- $454 for Byrne JAG program to provide flexible funding to help local law enforcement reduce crime in their communities.
- $27.5 million to help law enforcement purchase bullet proof vests.
- $100 million to address and prevent school violence.
- $173 million to clear sexual assault and DNA evidence backlogs.
- $27 million for the Victims of Child Abuse Act to ensure that these crimes are investigated appropriately and victims have the resources they need.
- $80 million for Drug Courts and $23 million for Veterans Treatment Courts.
Tester, a senior member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been a fierce advocate for ensuring that spending in Washington reflects Montana values. Last month, he worked with a bipartisan group of Senators to pass infrastructure, environment, and Indian affairs funding packages through the committee. He also led a small group of Senators in ending the longest government shutdown in U.S. history by negotiating a bipartisan funding bill at the beginning of the year.