Press-Republican

May 25, 2013

Owens wants brakes put on border fee

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congressman Bill Owens has sponsored an amendment that would halt the proposed study of a border fee.

The amendment would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from using any funding to study or implement border-crossing fees for passenger vehicles and pedestrians at the northern and southern borders, according to a news release from Owens’s office.

“The idea of charging a border fee is wrong-headed, and the damage done to economic development and tourism along the border would cost more than the government could ever collect through fees,” Owens said.

“This amendment will bar the use of funds to study or implement a border fee, stopping the idea in its tracks. I am hopeful this amendment will continue through the legislative process and help convince DHS that it’s time to drop the idea altogether.”

BUDGET BILL

Owens introduced the amendment as part of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. It will be included in the bill when it comes to the floor of the House for a vote later this year.

As co-chairman of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, Owens has opposed the border fee since it was first brought up.

The proposal to study a border fee was included in Homeland Security’s 2014 budget request.

According to the department’s budget submission, the study would assess “the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee.” 

The proposed fee would apply to both the northern and southwest borders of the United States. Homeland Security would require completion of the study within nine months of enactment.

JOB-CREATION FUNDS

In other border news, the Northern Border Regional Commission announced the availability of grant funding for job-creation projects in eligible northern border communities.

Owens is urging constituents to apply for the funds.

“The Northern Border Regional Commission is designed to support projects that will help create or retain jobs in our community,” he said in a release.

“I encourage all qualified applicants from the district to consider this opportunity and look forward to seeing the funds awarded later this year.”

Northern Border Regional Commission Co-Chairman Sandy Blitz indicated in a release that the panel intends to award roughly $1.2 million by late summer of this year.

COVERS 36 COUNTIES

The commission was created by Congress to alleviate economic distress and promote job opportunities throughout 36 counties in New York, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Eligible counties in New York’s 21st Congressional District include Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence.

According to the Border Commission release, grants will be awarded to projects that address infrastructure, job training, tourism and similar issues, while states develop their own process for ranking eligible applications that meet the commission’s criteria.

Interested participants can contact the New York Department of State at 473-3355 or their regional development corporation for more information.

Owens’s Watertown staff is also available to assist interested parties at (315) 782-3150.

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com