HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Max Baucus is announcing priorities that include more help for jobless veterans, energy development and renewed focus on fixing the nation's debt.
Baucus was home Thursday speaking to the Montana Legislature, which convened this week for its once-every-other-year session. The state's senior senator is up for re-election in 2014.
The state's U.S. senators typically give a speech early in the Legislature outlining issues on the federal level.
Baucus said he will renew his push for authorization of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline so construction can get started on a project that would run from Canada and through Montana on its way to refineries in Texas.
"We really are the treasure state. Think of other states, they don't have near the resources we have," Baucus said. "This is an advantage we have so let's take advantage of these resources and make them really work for us."
Republicans welcomed the call for developing Montana's natural resources, including coal, and Baucus' proposal to focus on the problem of deficit spending.
"I believe we need to have our fiscal house in order, and that something they need to work on at the federal level," said state Sen. Edward Walker of Billings.
Walker, who works at a company involved in developing the state's oil fields, said federal approval of the Keystone Pipeline will be "a critical part of the state's infrastructure."
Baucus also told the state lawmakers that Congress needs to "get serious about tackling our debt."
Baucus said his first bill to the new Congress will be to help veterans find jobs by ensuring that military trade certifications are accepted in the civilian world. He mentions firefighters, police, and air traffic controllers as examples of potential crossover certification that would make it easier for vets to get a job when they return home.
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