Montana Lawmakers Comment on Budget Deal

By Beacon Staff

D.C. lawmakers averted yet another government shutdown by agreeing on a $1.1 trillion budget compromise between the House and Senate. The agreement was negotiated last month by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. — leaders respectively of the House and Senate Budget committees. It funds the government through Sept. 30, eases across-the-board government mandatory spending cuts and eliminates, for now, the likelihood of an election-year government shutdown, according to a story by the Associated Press.

The measure passed the House 359-67 on Wednesday and the Senate 72-26 on Thursday. Obama is expected to sign it in the coming days.

Montana Rep. Steve Daines voted against the budget deal, while U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus voted in favor.

According to Daines’ office, the new budget deal fails to fund the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program, which provides Montana counties with $26 million in funding each year. In counties and communities with large amounts of federal land, PILT helps offset the loss of important revenues and fulfill the federal government’s obligation assist local communities in providing emergency services, fire suppression and support for rural schools.

Here are comments from Daines, Baucus and Tester explaining their votes:

“I am pleased that the House and Senate Appropriations leaders heeded my call to support Montana’s important nuclear mission by prohibiting funding for an environmental impact analysis on our ICBM capability. However, while we succeeded in protecting Montana’s critical military missions, the overall appropriations package puts Washington, D.C. priorities first, failing Montana, our veterans and our taxpayers.

“I opposed the Ryan-Murray budget because it represented a step back in efforts to address our nation’s worsening debt crisis and paid for spending increases on the backs of our veterans. Not only is this spending bill based on the same failed principles, it goes further in hurting Montana’s rural communities. This bill zeroes out critical funding for Montana’s rural and forest counties, jeopardizing rural schools and critical emergency services that Montanans rely on, and fails to fully resolve damaging cuts to retirement pay that is critically important for many Montana veterans. Montanans need real solutions to get our nation back on track, and paying for increased Washington spending on the backs of hard-working Montanans is not the answer.”

“This compromise makes sure we can keep our country from operating on the brink of disaster. Montana’s working families have enough to worry about without politicians adding to the stress and I’m glad folks agreed that shutting the government down is not a responsible path forward.”

“For too long, we’ve staggered from crisis to crisis, holding our small businesses and economy hostage. We now have a responsible, bipartisan bill that provides businesses with more certainty and makes tough choices so we can strengthen our economy and continue to get our fiscal house in order. No bill is perfect, but Montana benefits when folks compromise and find reasons to say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’”

Click here to read a summary of the bill.