A $1 trillion infrastructure bill championed by Montana Sen. Jon Tester was signed into law by President Joe Biden Monday, allocating billions of dollars to Montana for highways, bridges, airports, water projects and broadband connectivity.
“This bipartisan package will create good-paying jobs and maintain our economic advantage over China by investing in Montana’s roads, bridges, high-speed internet, water systems, and more,” Tester, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I worked closely with Republicans and Democrats to negotiate this bill because that’s what Montanans expect from their elected leaders — that we put our differences aside and work across the aisle on real, lasting solutions.”
A release from Tester’s office also included approving statements from a wide array of industry and advocacy groups, including the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leadership Council, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana AFL-CIO, Motor Carriers of Montana, Montana Wildlife Federation, American Council of Engineering Companies, Montana Farm Bureau Federation and Montana Trout Unlimited.
Earlier this summer, Sen. Jon Tester helped craft a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan that includes billions for Montana highways, water systems and broadband. As the House prepares to take up the debate, here’s a look at what’s at stake.
According to Tester’s office, the bill includes $2.8 billion for Montana highways, approximately $225 million for Montana bridge repairs, $164 million for Montana public transit infrastructure and $144 million for Montana airports. He also said it includes $40 million for Blackfeet Tribe water and sanitation projects, $271 million for Montana rural water system projects, and as much as $100 million for rehabilitating the Milk River Project, a century-old system of canals and dams that provides drinking and irrigation water to a huge swath of northern Montana.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, the bill also includes $65 billion for high-speed broadband, $66 billion for high-speed rail funding, $65 billion for upgrading the national power grid to accommodate renewable energy generation, more than $50 billion to upgrade infrastructure to survive extreme weather caused by climate change, and $7.5 billion to build out a national network of electric vehicle chargers.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate Aug. 10 on a 69-30 vote, with support from all 50 Democratic senators and 19 Republicans. It passed the U.S. House in its final form Nov. 5 on a 228-206 vote, with support from 215 of 221 Democrats and 13 of 213 Republicans.
The two Republicans in Montana’s congressional delegation, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, both opposed the bill, saying it would increase taxes, drive up the national debt and produce more inflation.
“From the beginning of this debate, I warned the Democrats will use the massive ‘infrastructure’ spending proposal as a stepping stone to pass their larger, reckless tax and spending spree that will push the U.S. down the path of socialism,” Daines said in a statement published after the bill was passed by the House.
“President Biden and the Democrats’ reckless proposals will increase taxes on Montana families, workers, small businesses, and farmers and ranchers, and add to the skyrocketing inflation crisis we’re seeing today,” Daines also said.
Rosendale acknowledged the need for infrastructure investment in rural communities, but called the bill “irresponsible” for including spending on other “liberal priorities.”
“This bill is a trojan horse filled with billions of dollars to fund Green New Deal priorities, push the Left’s social justice agenda, and invade Americans’ privacy,” his office said in a statement.
Tester’s office said in his release that he “made sure that the legislation does not raise taxes.”
Daines and Rosendale also opposed the March American Rescue Plan Act, a major coronavirus relief measure that allocated billions to Montana. Relief dollars allocated to state government under that act are being spent on water projects, social service programs, economic development initiatives and a state broadband expansion initiative, among other efforts.
Nearly three months after a Montana Rail Link train derailed near Reed Point, releasing 419,000 pounds of asphalt into the Yellowstone River, state agencies began advising anglers this week not to eat any fish caught on a nearly 50-mile stretch of the river.
An emerging risk-based framework called PODs aims to improve firefighter safety, support fire-adapted communities, and get more of the right fire in the right place at the right time. Will it take hold in Montana?
Five years after the alt-weekly “Independent” shut down, Missoula has a brand-new hyperlocal news source. In this installment of The Sit-Down, co-founders Erika Fredrickson and Matt Frank reflect on the influence of the Independent, explain their financial model and take aim at a target audience that includes Missoula noobs.