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Gazette opinion: Keep Tester working for Montana in U.S. Senate

Gazette opinion: Keep Tester working for Montana in U.S. Senate

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A champion for U.S. veterans, agriculture producers, affordable health care, accessible public lands and the First Amendment, Jon Tester will continue to serve Montana well if voters re-elect him on Nov. 6.

Tester’s roots are deep in his Big Sandy farm, and he takes pride in meeting regularly with Montanans in unscripted forums. He held 20 listening sessions in one year to get Montana veterans’ ideas on fixing VA health system problems, and then worked with Republicans on the Senate veterans committee to enact laws to start making those improvements. After learning from Billings addiction treatment professionals that a federal regulation contributed to a long wait list for Medicaid inpatient treatment, Tester worked to change the rule, which will be waived next year as part of the new opioid epidemic law.

Our senior senator takes the pulse of Montana and fights for what we need when he is in Washington, D.C.

This summer, Tester sat down with Montana agriculture producers to hear how new international tariffs were affecting the prices they pay for equipment and the prices they receive for commodities.

Tester took the lead when Park County businesses and residents asked the Montana congressional delegation to protect public lands in Paradise Valley from potential large-scale gold mining. When neighbors in Carbon County sought a Wild and Scenic River designation for the portion of East Rosebud Creek that runs through the Custer National Forest, Tester joined forces with Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte to get the job done.

Covering Montanans

Health care is a big worry for most Montanans. Tester voted for the law that resulted in the portion of Montanans without health insurance dropping from 20 percent of the population to 7 percent. Nearly 100,000 very low income Montanans have Medicaid through that law and thousands more low-to-middle-income Montanans have premium subsidies that make their comprehensive, private insurance affordable.

Tester’s opponent, Matt Rosendale, opposes the Affordable Care Act and, as state auditor, has permitted sale of insurance plans that don’t cover mental health care, substance abuse treatment, prescription medicine, maternity care or pre-existing conditions. Rosendale told us that Montanans deserve choices with lower premiums. But these “short-term” policies are a bad deal for anyone who ends up needing care in the huge coverage gaps.

President Donald Trump has signed 20 Tester-backed bills into law. The most recent was the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, which forces U.S. senators to file their campaign finance reports online — like U.S. House members and Montana state candidates. The law will save taxpayers the cost of having paper copies of Senate campaign reports keyed into a searchable computer system.

Expanded VA clinic

As a member of the Senate veterans committee, Tester has brought a procession of VA secretaries to Montana, insisting that they see for themselves the needs of our veterans, many of whom live long distances from the state’s sole VA hospital in Helena. On Tester’s watch, the Billings VA outpatient clinic has expanded from cramped offices that required staff to walk outside to get from one treatment area to another. Since Tester was re-elected in 2012, a larger clinic has opened on Majestic Lane with outpatient surgery and other health care specialties that weren’t available in Billings six years ago.

Tester brought VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to Billings six years ago so local veterans could tell him why a national cemetery is needed in Montana’s most populous county. As a result, the cemetery that Yellowstone County taxpayers started north of Laurel became the Yellowstone National Cemetery with enhanced amenities and services.

In the budget battles of 2017-2018 when the Children’s Health Insurance Program and funding for community health centers like RiverStone were being held up in political horse trading, Tester stood firm for covering Montana kids and sustaining the community clinics that serve nearly 10 percent of Montana’s population with affordable primary care.

Sunshine champion

When first elected, Tester made U.S. Senate history by posting his daily work schedule online. Since then he has sponsored public information legislation and continues to advocate for transparency in government and election campaigns.

Last year, the American Library Association honored Tester for his commitment to public information with the 2017 James Madison Award. Tester pledged to “keep fighting for more sunshine so we can ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly, and hold elected leaders accountable to make sure they are working for the people of Montana and all Americans.”

That’s what Tester has delivered for Montana. We encourage voters to keep him working for our great state in the U.S. Senate.


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