A Columbia Falls official and Whitefish business owner said last week that a federal infrastructure bill was needed for local governments and business operations during a shutdown by Democratic Montana Senator Jon Tester in Kalispell.
Columbia Falls City Councilor Mike Shepard explained how federal funding would help the city potentially improve its sewage treatment plant and improve some of its streets.
JoJé Bars Founder and CEO Jess Cerra of Whitefish explained how reliable broadband and reliable internet access is vitally important to her energy bar business.
Residents and Flathead Valley Community College president Jane Karas said they supported a bipartisan infrastructure package recently negotiated by Tester, a Democrat, and nine other Senate colleagues, divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The Senate is expected to begin debate on the $ 579 billion bill in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been living off our parents’ infrastructure for too long,” Tester as he puzzled for the package at FVCC last week. He said the bill would also make the United States more competitive with China.
He said the Senate package would strengthen the country’s ailing infrastructure and create a system for anyone who wants high-speed internet access to get it.
Karas said the internet was a huge concern locally, noting that during the pandemic some students simply did not have adequate access.
“Many students had no type of access,” she said.
Shepard said the city’s growth is making infrastructure problems worse. The city has done good planning over the years, looking 15-20 years into the future as it adds wells and upgrades its sewage treatment plant.
But in years past, the city could count on federal grants or loans to help fund these projects. But today and for a long time, not so much.
He said simple things like sewage treatment plants are good for the environment, reducing the chances of algae blooms in places like Flathead Lake.
For Cerra, she said a reliable internet is very important. She has said on more than one occasion that she attended a Zoom meeting or other important connection just to make the internet fail.
In addition to the energy bar business, she also created The Last Best Ride mountain bike race scheduled for late August on the gravel roads around Whitefish.
The tester clarified some aspects of the package, which includes $ 200 billion in revolving loan funds for projects.
He said he is not repealing any of the corporate tax cuts that were passed in 2017. Instead, he is using funds that were not spent in previous federal government bills. coronavirus relief. It also tightens the application of federal income tax to pay for the measure.
He said Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, hopes to publicize him by July 19.
If it passes, it will have to be reconciled and passed in the House as well.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, also expressed doubts, according to a Washington Post report on Monday.
“The era of bipartisanship over this stuff is over… It won’t be done on a bipartisan basis. It’s going to be a hell of a fight over what this country should look like in the future and it’s going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don’t think we had a greater difference of opinion between the two parties, ”McConnell said of Democrats’ plans to run infrastructure along party lines, the Post reported.