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HELENA  U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., isn’t impressed with
President Barack Obama’s proposed 2015 federal budget, saying it increases “wasteful Washington spending” – but he’s not the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation blasting the budget.

Newly appointed Democratic U.S. Sen. John Walsh also criticized the president’s proposal, saying it is “littered with missed opportunities that fail to cut waste,” and that it “falls short of meeting Montana’s needs.”

“This is a disappointing framework, and I will work to ensure that the appropriations bills better reflect Montana’s priorities,” he said in a statement late Tuesday.

Daines is running this year for Walsh’s Senate seat. If the two men win their respective U.S. Senate primary elections in June, they will face off this fall in the general election.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was a bit more positive about the president’s budget, as he applauded Obama’s proposals for new spending on early childhood education, infrastructure and research and development.

Still, even Tester said the president’s plan doesn’t go far enough to reduce the federal deficit.

“We need to do more to get our fiscal house in order as we strengthen our economy,” said Tester, who has pushed for a broader tax-and-spending package that would lower federal deficits over the long term.

Obama released his proposed federal budget Tuesday for fiscal year 2015, which begins in October.

The $3.9 trillion budget includes new spending on defense, early childhood education, roads and bridges and expanded income-tax credits for the poor. He would pay for the new spending primarily with higher taxes on the wealthy and large businesses.

Late last year, Congress agreed to spending limits for the overall budget through 2015. Obama’s budget proposal fills in the details, outlining dozens of spending priorities for Congress to consider, as well as the new spending above the agreed-upon limit.

Leaders of the Republican majority in the U.S. House dismissed the Obama budget as a political document meant to fire up Democratic voters, with most of its proposals having little chance of passing.

Daines, who voted against the overall spending limits as too high, echoed that sentiment Wednesday, saying Obama’s proposal is not a “serious budget that addresses the problems facing our nation and tackles our debt.”

Obama should have put forth real reforms that move the federal budget toward balancing, rather than just continuing long-term deficit spending, he said. The budget has a projected $564 billion deficit next year, down from this year’s deficit of $649 billion.

Walsh, appointed Feb. 7 as Montana’s newest U.S. senator, criticized the president’s budget on several fronts.

He said it maintains “excessive private (military) contracts” while reducing benefits for military personnel, cuts support for rural hospitals and the Farm Service Agency offices, and prevent Montana schools for getting a technology grant to improve Internet access.

However, he did say he likes its general support of rural broadband development, the funding for universal preschool, full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and establishment of a separate fund for firefighting costs on public and neighboring wildlands.




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