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Column: We need more jobs, not more bailouts

by Jon Tester & U.S. Senate
| January 28, 2009 11:00 PM

On Inauguration Day, hundreds of Montanans joined millions of Americans in our nation’s capital to celebrate a high point in our nation’s history and a turning point in our national policy.

Even before the road apples were hosed off the parade route, I went back to the U.S. Senate to continue working on an unprecedented jobs bill that will rebuild our economy by putting folks back to work.

Of course, we can’t just throw money at the problem and hope the economy gets fixed.  That’s why I voted against both the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street and the more recent bailout of the auto industry.

I wanted to see more accountability.  And I wasn’t convinced that those bailouts would work over the long haul.  Instead, we need a plan to put folks to work rebuilding the economy from the ground up.   We need more jobs, not more bailouts.

Every billion dollars invested in infrastructure creates nearly 30,000 good jobs here in our communities.  And those jobs will result in long-term infrastructure—the bridges, roads, water systems and energy facilities—that our economy needs to grow.

Frankly, Montana’s physical infrastructure is worn out.  It has been for years.

We also must invest in human infrastructure – education and quality health care.  And we need workforce development, so workers and Main Street small businesses have the skills necessary to compete in the Information Age economy.

If we don’t, young people will have no choice but to leave Montana to find opportunity.  And that would be a darn shame and a sorry legacy to leave behind.

If these infrastructure dollars are invested correctly, we will create jobs now and we will build projects that will repay us for generations to come.

First, we’ll need to work together.  We’ll need strong partnerships on the federal, state, local and tribal levels to identify only the most important projects.  And we’ll work together as public servants to get worthy projects – and only worthy projects – the public dollars to make them happen.

As a new member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, I will fight for a jobs bill that ensures we get the most bang for the buck.  I want to make sure we move more shovels and push less paper.

In the end, I’ll only vote for a smart bill that has rock-solid accountability. Montanans deserve no less.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.  And I ask that you stay in touch with me through the process, because we’re all in this economy together.

(U.S. Senator Jon Tester is a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy).