Gazette opinion: Tester’s record shows he delivers for Montana

2012-10-21T00:10:00Z Gazette opinion: Tester’s record shows he delivers for Montana The Billings Gazette
October 21, 2012 12:10 am

In this year’s race for U.S. Senate, Montanans have a choice between the incumbent senator who is completing his first six-year term and the state’s sole U.S. representative who has been in that office for 12 years.

A hard-working moderate, Sen. Jon Tester has accomplished more for Montana in his first term than Rep. Denny Rehberg has in twice that time.

- Tester made Montana veterans his top priority: He worked for a law that provides employer incentives for hiring veterans, authored legislation to triple the paltry VA mileage reimbursement for veterans, pushed VA to replace the inadequate clinic in Billings and to expand it as need is growing. Tester worked with VA to designate the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery as a national veterans cemetery.

- When proposed new federal food inspection rules threatened to overwhelm Montana producers, Tester created an exemption for small producers.

- When Montana biotech companies sought Tester’s help in overcoming obstacles to raising startup capital, he helped write key provisions of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act that was signed into law earlier this year.

- When Montana bankers told him a new Federal Reserve regulation would hurt small banks, he stuck his neck out for them.

- The 2009 stimulus law Tester supported put Montanans to work building roads all across the state, including Shiloh Road. The Montana Legislature appropriated $45 million in stimulus money to fund city and county projects statewide. Billings would not have repaired its public schools without the stimulus law, which authorized the two bond issues that local voters approved.

- Tester teamed up with a Republican congressman from Idaho to put Montana and Idaho officials in charge of wolf management.

- Tester brought Montanans together to figure out better ways to manage federal forests. The result was that many Montana lumber businesses, sportsmen and conservationists supported the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Rehberg prevailed on the GOP-controlled House to kill it, thus stymieing an effort that his former boss (Marc Racicot) has called “a careful balance of interests and imperatives.”

As a state senator, Tester cosponsored the bipartisan 2005 bill that created the Insure Montana program, which now provides access to affordable private health insurance for several thousand Montanans who are small business employees or their family. In the U.S. Senate, Tester supported the Affordable Care Act because the U.S. health system is inefficient, too expensive and fails to cover many Montanans. He voted to remove an income-reporting provision of the ACA that threatened to burden businesses with paperwork, and he believes that the law needs more revising.

Like the rest of Montana’s delegation, Tester has fought against U.S. Postal Service threats to close rural post offices. Congress must face the fact that USPS needs to cut costs to stay in business. In a second term, Tester must push for a sound business plan for USPS.

Tester is optimistic about working with lawmakers of both parties to address America’s debt and deficit, which he says are the No. 1 concerns for Congress. He supports the balanced approach to solutions outlined in bipartisan plans that call for combinations of larger federal spending cuts and smaller tax revenue increases.

After serving in the Montana Senate where two years worth of legislation must be completed in 90 working days, Tester brings a Montana can-do approach to Congress.

The Gazette editorial board recommends Tester as the candidate best able to work across the aisle and get important things done for Montana and the country.

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