HELENA – Freshman Rep. Steve Daines said Monday he backs a House Republican proposal to balance the federal budget in 10 years.
Daines, a Republican, delivered a speech to the state Legislature in which he also called on both sides in Washington, D.C., to put politics aside and fix problems.
He also said he is considering whether to support Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s compromise plan to expand logging and wilderness area in the state.
Daines, a Bozeman businessman, was elected in November to his first public office, replacing U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg who left the office to unsuccessfully challenge Tester.
Daines, unlike Tester and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, did not serve in the state Legislature before being elected to Congress.
Speaking to state legislators for the first time, Daines said Washington is broken, with run-away spending and rewards for special interests.
Daines said he supports a plan by House leaders to draft a balanced federal budget by focusing on cuts.
“Washington politicians need to spend less, not take more,” Daines said. “I am calling on Congress to come together and pass a budget that will balance our nation’s budget within 10 years. Anything less is unfair to the next generation.”
The Republican said in an interview that the plan, still in the works, will not touch Medicare for seniors currently using it. That benefit program, and others such as farm subsidies, could take big cuts under the proposal being drafted by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, another Republican, to cut trillion-dollar deficits.
Daines gave his full support to the pending proposal from Ryan.
Democrats argue any proposal to balance the budget with no tax increases would force steep cuts in popular programs. Much of the federal money would be cut from state coffers, which rely on the funds for administration of programs such as Medicaid.
“Anything that is not a balanced budget would give me concern,” said Montana House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter of Helena. “The balanced budget has to be done with both spending reductions and revenue increases.”
Daines, in his speech, said politicians in Washington, D.C., need to work together to find solutions, and he promised to work with the two Democrats in the state’s delegation.
Daines said in an interview that includes possible support for Tester’s proposal that expands wilderness areas in the state, locks in recreations areas for multiple use, and mandates the Forest Service dramatically increase logging in some areas. Rehberg had opposed the measure, arguing he did not believe the logging mandate would be met.
Daines said he is keeping an open mind on the proposal and plans to discuss it with Tester.
Daines is opposed to President Barack Obama’s call for gun control and received applause for endorsing gun rights.
“I will look at all the specifics but I want to truly make sure what he is proposing will truly make our schools and communities safer,” Daines said.
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