Why I voted against Obama's jobs bill


Last week, I cast a vote in the Senate that was praised by some and criticized by others. I voted against the American Jobs Act after considerable discussion, research and listening to many folks. I stand by my vote, and I want to share my reasons directly with you.

First, we can't forget our own history. A few generations ago this nation made an incredible investment in infrastructure, and the jobs it created helped lead us out of the Great Depression. President Roosevelt's vision was to create a stronger and more productive America using the brains and brawn of American workers.

Sen. Jon Tester

Roosevelt's example should guide our nation now as we rebuild from this recession.

We built our way out of the Great Depression with an unprecedented investment in physical infrastructure. We built highways and bridges and parks and factories. We connected the nation with industry. We electrified rural farms and ranches. In Montana we built lodges and trails that help people the world over to enjoy Glacier National Park and Montana's natural beauty; we built airports; we created water and irrigation systems.

We knew that investing in infrastructure, education and research and development are powerful, long-term job creators. We were right.

Today, we know that America's bridges, roads, electrical grids, national parks and schools are in need of repair to carry our nation and our economy into the future. We also know that we have educated and able people ready to get the work done.

My vote against the president's jobs proposal came after considering our own history and our path to the future.

The American Jobs Act invested far too little in actual job creation. In fact, only 20 percent of the $447 billion was dedicated to physical infrastructure, and only about half of that money would have been available right away.

Over $250 billion of the bill was devoted to temporary tax gimmicks that don't create jobs. History shows us that too.

Of course, there are provisions I supported. I support the surtax on millionaires. I feel strongly that this nation's wealthiest should pay their fair share in taxes.

But we should use the revenue from a new surtax on millionaires to pay for things that build our economy, like roads, bridges, transmission lines, rural broadband and water projects. The president's bill would have used this revenue to pay for expensive, temporary tax gimmicks that won't create jobs in the long term. I have no doubt we will put that revenue to much better use in the near future.

In the weeks ahead I will be working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure that we put Americans back to work in the short term, while also making jobs investment in the long term. I'll work on proposals for the entire nation and specific to Montana to address our infrastructure needs, to ensure continued research and development to carry our economy forward, and to continue educating and training the children who are the future.

All of this can and must be done in a way that addresses one of the underlying problems hurting our economy: our growing deficit and the uncertainty it creates. To get there, we need a wholesale reform of our tax code to make sure wealthy Americans and big corporations pay their fair share, and to make taxes more fair for working families. And we need to ensure that critical initiatives like Social Security and Medicare are built to last, so they can benefit our kids and grandkids.

(Jon Tester, a Big Sandy farmer, is a Democrat and Montana's junior U.S. senator.)


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