Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a telephone press conference Thursday that Congress has been busy in its first month in session, but he doesn't expect the load to lighten any time soon. “The challenges are many,” Tester said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Tester said there is a lot of good planning in the economic stimulus bill approved by a House and Senate conference committee Wednesday, on which he said the House is expected to vote today and the Senate Saturday. He said recent reports that consumer spending and housing construction was higher than expected in December (see a related story on page C3) is good news, but doesn’t mean the government should slow down in its efforts to rebuild the economy from the ground up. He added that the news is overshadowed by other reports house construction is still significantly down. “I talked to realtors Wednesday morning. Literally hundreds of thousands of people are being laid off,” Tester said. I think any good news is good news and we ought to take it for what it is ,” Tester added. “Let’s look at good news and hope the Jobs Bill pushes it further.” Tester said there are many parts of the bill that people may think are not job-related, but he believes they are and will provide needed services. Funds like $150 million to help fund Meals on Wheals spread out across the country that actually is not much, but it will help, he said funds to help school expenses And construction and to increase funding of Pell grants are included, he said. Tester said he believes programs like that will help the economy, along with programs to directly help in areas like housing construction and infrastructure. “I can tell you after putting a couple of kids through college that (Pell grants are) one of the quickest ways to stimulate the economy,” he added. Tester said he was disappointed that votes on the Jobs Bill were essentially along party lines he would have liked to have seen eight or 10 or 20 Republican senators vote for it rather than three but in the end, the results are what matters. “If you’re a guy standing on the street out of work you don’t care who’s Republican or Democrat, you just want a job,” to put food on the table and clothes on the children’s backs, Tester said. He said he knows the recession is hitting hard, even in Montana. The last few recessions didn’t seem to hit here as hard, Tester said. “In the previous recessions I didn’t know anyone who was laid off. This one, I have family members who were laid off,” Tester said. He said the government also should look at rising gas prices, with a major question why the prices are going up while the price of crude oil drops. “I think there needs to be some investigative visits in the industry to see why it’s going up,” he said. Tester, who previously pushed for investigations into speculation possibly driving prices up when gas prices went higher than $4 a gallon in Montana last summer, said he might look into that again. “(There was) was incredible speculation in the gas market and in the grain market. Maybe we should take another bite at the apple with this one,” he said. The rising prices hit everyone, but are especially hard for people in rural areas like much of Montana, Tester said. “It really, really puts them behind the eight ball,” he said. Tester said one solution is to push to get the United States off of importing foreign oil. Some programs in the Jobs Bill addresses that, he added. “We need to make sure we make this country as energy independent as soon as possible,” Tester said.