I was a kid when I first learned how important a well-paved road was to my family’s bottom line. Growing up on my family farm in Big Sandy more than 60 years ago – the same one my wife Sharla and I still farm today – the closest patch of pavement was more than 13 miles away. I remember riding with my dad in our GMC 300 on that old, potholed dirt road, hauling wheat to town.
A decade later, that final stretch was paved, giving us full access to the highway. My parents were thrilled, because it didn’t just save us time, it saved us real money by reducing our costs for things like tires, and pins, and bushings, and ball joints. And I still drive that same paved road today.
But for decades, we’ve failed to make the same type of infrastructure investments as our parents and grandparents. Everywhere I go across our state, I see roads in disrepair, bridges that need to be brought up to 21st century standards, outdated water systems, and a lack of high-speed internet that is holding our communities back.
That’s why, over the past few months, I worked with a group of five Republican and four Democratic senators to craft a once-in-a-generation bipartisan infrastructure legislation that will make urgently needed investments in our communities, create good-paying jobs, and help America maintain our economic advantage over China.
And recently, by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority, the Senate passed my legislation. This is great news for our state and for our country, which has been living off the investments of previous generations for far too long.
My legislation will make traveling and doing business across our state safer and more efficient by investing billions in Montana’s roads, bridges, and airports. It will provide certainty and clean water for farmers, ranchers, and families by improving rural water systems – including up to $100 million for the Milk River Project – and it will help Montana small businesses grow by expanding access to high-speed internet so that every Montanan can participate in the 21st century economy, whether they live in Billings or in Broadus.
This year, Montanans have seen some of the worst wildfires in my lifetime, and I made sure this legislation includes resources to prepare communities and landscapes for fires before they happen and respond to them when tragedy strikes. It will also upgrade our power infrastructure and create new energy jobs by building thousands of miles of resilient transmission lines to boost the development of cutting-edge renewable energy technology.
And it will do it all this and more without raising taxes on hardworking Montana families or adding to our nation’s debt.
There’s a lot to like in this bill, but ultimately it comes down to two things: this legislation is going to create a whole lot of good-paying jobs in Montana and across the country; and it will help us maintain our economic advantage over our adversaries like China.
It’s no secret that China has been investing in their infrastructure for decades. They want to replace us as the premier global economic power. This legislation will make sure we keep our place as the world’s top economy.
Montanans have always expected their elected leaders to work across the aisle to deliver real, lasting results for our state, our economy, and our nation. This bipartisan legislation will do that.
I’m proud to have worked with Republicans, Democrats, and the White House to get this bill across the finish line in the Senate, and I’m going to keep pushing to get it through the House and onto the President’s desk.
Jon Tester is a Democratic U.S senator from Montana.
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