A Stimulating Topic

Montana is slotted to receive about $625 million from the new stimulus package, an amount Sen. Jon Tester says will save or create 11,000 jobs in the state. The lion's share of the package, about $333 million, is for the Montana Stabiliziation Fund, which is largely dedicated to education and water systems, and for Montana highway and construction, according to Tester's office. However, a separate and even bigger piece of the package is the additional $1.6 billion in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS) Montana will be able to issue to fund alternative-energy programs. The CREBS program was initially enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which gives nontaxable entities federal incentives for starting clean-energy projects and spurred over 700 wind, biomass, solar, and hydro projects when it was enacted, according to the Democratic Policy Committee. In Montana, CREBS have funded projects such as Flathead Electric's biomass project that converts landfill gas to energy.

The federal stimulus package also includes $20 billion for solar and wind power projects, some of which could pump up Governor Brian Schweitzer's "20 percent by 2010" goal, whereby state government buildings and vehicles are supposed to cut their energy consumption by 20% by 2010.

"I intend to closely monitor how these funds are spent and will use my position on the Appropriations Committee to make sure taxpayers get value for their hard earned dollars," stated Rep. Denny Rehberg in a February 13, 2009, press release. Rehberg voted against the stimulus bill. Schweitzer and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley dismissed the Republican detractors as "fringe" party members eager to score political points, according to the Associated Press.