President Joe Biden talks to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, after speaking alongside a bipartisan group of senators after the group reached a deal on an infrastructure package at the White House on June 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden said both sides made compromises on the nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which was signed by Biden Nov. 15, 2021. Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images. May not be republished without license.

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.

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Montana’s stake in the infrastructure plan

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. 

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Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer and the founder of the Long Streets economic reporting project. His reporting focuses broadly on Montana’s governance and economic opportunity, with particular focus on the state budget and tax policy. He also contributes data reporting across the MTFP newsroom. Before joining the MTFP staff in 2019, he worked for the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network and also earned an engineering degree from Montana State University. Contact Eric at edietrich@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 2, and follow him on Twitter.