House Speaker Tweaks Republicans Over Stimulus

By Beacon Staff

Montana Speaker of the House Bob Bergren, D-Havre, sent out an interesting press release today emphasizing the difference between Democratic and Republican state lawmakers when it comes to the massive economic stimulus package(s) poised to emerge from Congress now that Barack Obama is president.

“A recovery package that creates jobs and builds infrastructure is good for all Montanans,” Bergren said in the release. “Construction projects to improve our bridges, roads, hospitals and schools will put Montanans to work in good-paying jobs.”

But Bergren contrasts this with comments made by Minority Leader Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, in a TV interview before the session where the former 2007 House Speaker said, ““I think the right approach would be to start weaning ourselves off the federal government, become more self reliant and take our lumps.”

The release looks as if it’s intended to bolster support and garner recognition for a joint resolution Kalispell freshman Democrat Cheryl Steenson has co-sponsored urging the federal government to quickly pass the stimulus package. But in doing so, Bergren seems to be stirring the pot a bit when it comes to partisanship, taking a shot at Sales with an issue – the federal stimulus – over which the Legislature has no control, whether Steenson’s resolution passes or not.

The full release:

HELENA – Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives Bob Bergren (D-Havre) said today that recent remarks by Montana House Minority Leader – and former Speaker of the House – Scott Sales illustrate how differently Democrats and some Republicans approach economic recovery and jobs for Montanans.

“We think action from the U.S. Congress to pass a package of job-recovery legislation and infrastructure improvements is essential to bring jobs to Montana and start economic recovery,” Bergren said.

“A recovery package that creates jobs and builds infrastructure is good for all Montanans. Construction projects to improve our bridges, roads, hospitals and schools will put Montanans to work in good-paying jobs.”

Bergren noted, however, that Sales appears to disagree.

On a Helena-area television program that aired on the eve of the opening day of the session, Sales said, “I think the right approach would be to start weaning ourselves off the federal government, become more self reliant and take our lumps.”

Sales made similar comments from the House floor on January 5.

“It’s hard to believe,” Bergren said. “As Americans look ahead to a new administration and a new set of challenges in tough times, some Montanans would reject federal funds that would put Montanans to work.”

Last week, Rep. Cheryl Steenson (D-Kalispell) said that she’ll introduce a joint resolution of the Montana House and Senate, urging federal lawmakers to act quickly to pass an economic recovery and jobs package to support the state’s infrastructure and put jobless Montanans to work.

Entitled “A Joint Resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the State of Montana urging the United States Congress to enact legislation to create jobs and advance economic recovery,” the resolution details the challenges facing Montana industries and the people who work for them.

“The resolution will give legislators the chance to vote on whether they think we should put Montanans back to work,” Bergren said, “and build roads, bridges and schools, or take our lumps.”

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