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Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I thank the senior Senator from Minnesota. I thank her very much for her comments.
I rise to join my colleagues who understand the need to strengthen our economy while taking responsible steps to reduce our deficit.
Four short years ago we were coming out of the worst economic recession, depression, since the dirty thirties. Today, this country needs a budget that tells Americans we are serious about growing our economy and creating jobs. Strengthening our economy will increase economic opportunities for all Americans and allow small businesses to expand and hire more workers. But a stronger economy will also help us reduce our deficit without cutting the investments that lay the groundwork for a better future for our kids and grandkids: investments in education, in infrastructure, in our health, investments in our veterans.
That is why the budget we are debating today is the responsible path forward for this Nation. It sets forth our priorities. It reduces our deficit without cutting the legs out from underneath our economy. It also tells Americans that we are not going to sacrifice those critical investments to strengthen our economy and enable our economy to grow.
Montanans know what it is like to live within their means. We do not spend what we do not have. And our State government is required to have a balanced budget. That is why Montana is one of the few States that survived the recession without dropping into the red. I am going to get into that in another area shortly.
We cannot tear the Federal Government apart to make up for the decisions that put us here in the first place. Ten years ago, we put two wars on the credit card at the same time we drastically cut taxes. Those choices quickly squandered the budget surplus we had in the 1990s.
Today the Republican plan approved by the House, known as the Ryan budget, uses tricks and gimmicks and smoke and mirrors to balance the budget. It sacrifices the welfare of our seniors, our students, and our veterans to get us back to the good old days.
It ends Medicare as we know it. It hands seniors a voucher that down the road will grow at half the rate of anticipated medical costs. Under their plan, for a procedure that a senior can afford today, tomorrow they will get a voucher for a part of what that procedure will cost, and they will be told: You make up the rest. And if you don't, too bad.
The Ryan plan also freezes Pell grants for students at a time when education costs continue to grow too fast for middle-class families to afford. Pell grants, education--a major driver in our economy.
It also makes it harder for low-income and unemployed veterans to get the health care they need. The Ryan plan is what I speak of. It cuts funding for women's health care and reduces coverage for preventative health services, such as cancer screenings--affecting 47 million women across this country. It does this while protecting tax loopholes for large corporations and failing to invest in roads and bridges. And the senior Senator from Minnesota knows all about bridges that collapse. She had one collapse in Minnesota. Those investments are necessary.
If you balance the budget by taking the country apart, what is the point of balancing the budget?
Now, there is no doubt we must reduce the deficit, and the Democratic plan responsibly cuts our deficit by putting us on a responsible long-term path that gets our fiscal house in order while investing in initiatives that grow our economy. It reduces the deficit by nearly $2 trillion over the next 10 years. Now, that is not chump change, and that is on top of the work we have already done over the last few years to reduce the deficit by $1.6 trillion. It does this while protecting seniors, women's health, middle-class families, and students.
Here is the kicker: Only the Democratic plan reforms the Tax Code and puts those savings toward deficit reduction. The Republican plan specifically forbids new revenue from tax reform to go to lower the deficit. For a party that claims balancing the budget is its holy grail, it is puzzling that Republicans want to use tax revenue to pay for more tax cuts. This is just one of many radical proposals and budget gimmicks they are proposing.
If you are for a balanced budget, then you must be for balanced deficit reduction. Every bipartisan commission that has looked at the problem agrees: to responsibly balance the books, you need to save money through a comprehensive plan that cuts spending, reforms entitlements, and fixes our Tax Code--and uses that savings to pay down the debt.
The time for commissions and working groups is past. We should have learned those lessons. We are here now to do the work to get our long-term deal to fix the budget. We will have to compromise, and that is the way it should be, because working together is what built this country. But only one plan is closer to where we need to be at the end of this debate. The Democratic plan cuts spending, keeps in place reforms to our health care system, and mandates the tax reform we need.
Tax reform will not be easy, but there are a few things that should not be hard to agree on either. I think tax loopholes for big oil and gas companies and corporations that ship jobs overseas should be wiped off the books.
We have two paths we can follow. One path drags this economy into a ditch by dismantling Medicare and cutting investments in infrastructure and our future. The other path takes a balanced approach to put this country on the road to long lasting economic growth and stability.
We have been lurching from one crisis to another for far too long. It has hurt job growth because businesses are holding back. They do not know where the debate in Washington is headed.
Offering them more certainty and strengthening this economy is something we need to do. We need to do it in a responsible way. We need to come together around a plan that strengthens our economy in the short term while taking real steps to reduce our deficit in the long term.
Senator Murray's plan is a better choice. It meets the needs of the American people. It shows them we are willing to lead. That is what we were sent here to do.
Mr. President, may I ask how much time I have?
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Mr. TESTER. Perfect. Let me also take 2 minutes to comment on an amendment that some of my colleagues spoke of that will be filed to this resolution.
It is an amendment that would not only impose new burdens on small businesses but would also fundamentally alter the rights of States by allowing them to tax entities located outside their borders.
Now, I heard a few Senators earlier today advocating for the elimination of the current standard that only allows States to tax entities with a physical presence in that State.
Montana is one of those States that does not pay a sales tax. We do not want a sales tax. It has been on the ballot a number of times. It has been voted down by the people every time. But under the provisions that some in this Chamber are pushing, small businesses in Montana would be forced to do the bidding of the departments of revenue in other States by collecting and remitting their sales taxes.
Montana's budget is currently operating at a surplus--without a sales tax. The idea that other States would balance their budgets on the backs of Montana's hard-working businesses is not only wrong, it is flat insulting.
This is an unfunded mandate on Montana's small businesses, and it is a slippery slope of what businesses will do to take their collections out of State.
Where is it going to go from here? Agricultural products grown and raised in Montana and marketed in other States? This is an aberration of States rights--rights which so many in this Chamber say they support. I would urge my colleagues to vote against any measures that would gut these States rights.
With that, I thank the Senator from Minnesota and yield the floor.
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