After reaching a deal, the tester is optimistic about adopting a “legacy” infrastructure package

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Missoula City Council Member Jordan Hess, left, and Sen. Jon Tester discuss the importance of the infrastructure bill and its potential benefits for Montana. (Current file Martin Kidston / Missoula)

Senator Jon Tester said Thursday that he and a group of senators had reached a bipartisan agreement on a new infrastructure bill that had been in the works for months, one the Democrat called historic.

Although the full text of the bill has not been released, the package includes around $ 550 billion in new infrastructure investment – $ 1.2 trillion in total – including roads and bridges, the water, broadband and airports.

“This is a landmark bill that will modernize Montana’s aging infrastructure, create well-paying jobs and help us maintain our competitive edge over China,” Tester said Thursday. “This is great news for our state and our country, which have lived for too long on investments in the infrastructure of our parents and grandparents.”

The Senate voted on Wednesday to move the plan forward, which begins the process of debate and potential amendments. The bill does not raise taxes but amortizes itself through tax gaps and various clawbacks from previous legislation, Tester said.

“Putting this bill together has been difficult and there have been a lot of ups and downs,” Tester said. “Like most good negotiations, no one left feeling like they had everything they wanted.”

While the measure could serve as a victory for infrastructure advocates, its adoption is not yet a done deal. Its success in the House may hinge on a separate $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill demanded by more liberal Democrats.

This measure would invest in things beyond the traditional infrastructure included in the first bill, such as child care, paid time off and other social issues.

“Child care is something I hear a lot about in the state of Montana. It’s important, ”Tester said. “We have a long way to go with a reconciliation bill. I think there are a lot of needs there. It will depend on how it is paid and how the money is spent.

But at least in the Senate, the infrastructure bill drafted by five Democrats and five Republicans is expected to pass. According to national media sources, it would provide $ 110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects, and around $ 70 billion for passenger rail transport.

It is estimated that $ 65 billion will go to broadband improvements and $ 25 billion to airports. The latter is essential in Montana as Missoula and several other airports expand their facilities to meet growing demand.

The bill would also provide $ 21 billion to the Superfund and Brownfield programs. Missoula used this funding to clean various properties of contaminants and ignite the redevelopment.

The tester expressed cautious optimism about the measure’s chances of success on Thursday.

“There could be a problem on the House side if, in fact, we don’t give the reconciliation package an effort to get it across the finish line. If it’s canceled and it’s not done, the House might not have enough votes to pass the infrastructure, ”Tester said.

“We must withdraw the traditional Senate infrastructure bill with a good vote. I think that helps pass it in the House. Then we have to start working on the reconciliation package.


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