Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
With the omnibus spending bill out of the U. S. House and on its way to the Senate, the members of Montana’s Congressional delegation are saying millions of dollars are on their way to Montana and to the Havre region, in addition to the millions or billions of dollars of spending and savings coming from the economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17. Montana’s U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, said more than $77 million is set for Montana projects in the bill, which combines appropriations from several bills that were not completed last year. The appropriations bills normally take effect Oct. 1 each year. The federal government is now operating under a continuing resolution extending last year’s funding through March 6. The bill passed the House on a nearly party-line vote, 245-178, with eight representatives not voting. In that vote, 16 Republicans voted for the bill and 20 Democrats voted against it. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. For and against the bill Montana’s U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Republican and a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, voted against the omnibus bill. “While the bill included many good things for Montana that I have fought for over a year to secure, it also contained way too much wasteful spending that wasn’t scrutinized close enough,” Rehberg said. “From hundred-billion dollar bailouts to a so-called stimulus package’ that cost taxpayers almost a trillion dollars, Congress is spending too much and racking up a huge debt. “It's only February and already federal government spending has increased 80 percent since last year. That simply is not good government,” he added. Baucus and Tester praised the bill. “Jon and I were proud to help secure these dollars because they will help build roads, protect Montana’s great outdoors, provide better health care and keep the public safe,” said Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “But most importantly, these dollars will create and protect jobs, and that is our top priority: to keep our economy moving forward.” “There are dozens of worthy Montana projects that will receive much needed and much deserved funds in this bill,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Working with Max, we were able to make sure this bill will create good jobs now in Montana and take the next step toward rebuilding the economy from the ground up for the long haul.” Rehberg also voted against the stimulus bill. Baucus and Tester voted for it. That bill also passed on a party- line vote, with three Republican Senators voting for it and no Democratic Senators voting against it. In the House, no Republicans voted for the bill and seven Democrats voted against it. Jobs Bill total impact unknown The economic stimulus package, known as the “Jobs Bill,” will bring millions to Montana but the exact projects it will fund are still unknown. The impact in direct money is estimated at $626 million to the state. That includes $211 million for highway funding, $39 million for water systems, $51 million for food and shelter assistance, $38 million in U.S. Department of Education funding $46 million for Head Start and education for disadvantaged people, and $6 million for drug task force and other community justice programs, and other areas. Where most of that money is spent, precisely, will be up to the state government. That total also does not include the impact of tax cuts included in the bill, or spending of dollars appropriated for federal agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Education and other agencies. Baucus, who played a large role in the writing of the bill, said all of those actions will have a major impact in north-central Montana and throughout the state. “The Jobs Bill is right for the folks in Havre. The best way to get our economy back on track from the Hi-Line to the Bitterroot is to create and keep goodpaying jobs and cut taxes for hard-working Montanans,” he said Wednesday. “Folks in Havre will see the impacts of this bill right away, and I’m confident it’s the right medicine for our ailing economy.” “After years of failed economic policies that put America’s economy in the ditch, it's time to rebuild our economy from the ground up,” Tester said this morning. “That’s why Max and I passed a Jobs Bill that puts thousands Montanans back to work. The Jobs Bill is in investment in people and in long-term infrastructure like water projects and highways across northcentral Montana.” Rehberg said that while parts of the bill will help with infrastructure and will help create jobs, overall the bill is just more big government. The bill, which he characterizes as the “deal” of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “is filled with wasteful spending that will do nothing to jump start the economy but will permanently bloat the federal government and make future tax increases inevitable,” Rehberg said when it passed. Direct spending in north-central Montana The omnibus spending bill includes several projects impacting north-central Montana, including $7 million in funding for the Rock Boy’s/ North Central Montana Regional Water System, $500,000 for the rehabilitation of the St. Mary Diversion that supplies much of the water in the Milk River each year, and $10 million for the Fort Peck/ Dry Prairie Water System. Other projects included are work on the wastewater system at Gildford, the water treatment plant at Fort Belknap, $100,000 for the historic old Havre post office and federal courthouse, more than $700,000 for housing at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, $300,000 for the Tribal Court at Fort Belknap and $250,000 for a juvenile detention facility at Rocky Boy. Rehberg, Baucus and Tester all praised the inclusion of money for the water projects. Rehberg, a member of the House Water and Energy Appropriations Subcommittee, said water projects are vital to many Montana communities. “These funds are another important step toward clean drinking water for all Montanans,” he said. Baucus and Tester also said the funding is crucial. “Water is precious in Montana, which is why Jon and I fought so hard for this funding,” Baucus said. “These projects are literally life-sustaining, and they’ll create goodpaying jobs and expands opportunities across our state.” “Water is always worth fighting for,” said Tester. “Access to safe, clean water allows thousands of families to live and to do business across rural Montana. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will work hard to get Montana’s water systems the resources they need for the 21st century.” People working on those projects said any funding is helpful, although the omnibus bill amounts are still far below what was requested. Paul Azevedo of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said the St. Mary project, which is trying to rebuild nearly 30 miles of canals, dikes and siphons built in the early 1900s to divert water to the Milk River, asked for about $5 million last year and will ask for about that much again for the next fiscal year. If the project receives halfa- million, the people working on the project will have to meet with the Bureau of Reclamation and the irrigators on the Milk River to prioritize where the use the funds, he said. Another question is whether the Bureau of Reclamation will ask the irrigators who use the system to repay the $500,000 under the original regulations, the Bureau can redeem all expenses from the irrigators, Azevedo said. The Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water System, which will treat water from Tiber Reservoir south of Chester to ship to some 30,000 people in northcentral Montana including Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, has asked for $42 million for each of the last few years. Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development Corp., who is working on the project, said that is about what will be asked for again this year. The appropriations requests to the federal government for the next fiscal year are due Friday, she added.