Senators back bill to help economic development commission
Lawmakers in New England and New York want to expand a commission that helps with economic development in the region after President Donald Trump’s administration proposed eliminating funding.
The legislation introduced Thursday extends the authorization of the commission for five years; expands it to include two more New Hampshire counties; allows the commission to attract business from outside the United States; and offers funding to encourage development of renewable energy projects.
New Hampshire Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined Democratic, Republican and independent lawmakers in Vermont, Maine and New York in sponsoring the bill.
“The Northern Border Regional Commission has had a real impact in Northern New Hampshire counties, creating jobs and supporting projects that improve quality of life,” Shaheen said in a statement. “This is a proposal to help address infrastructure needs, support New Hampshire communities and businesses, and expand regional economic opportunity.”
The Northern Border Regional Commission has provided more than $30 million in funding since it was created a decade ago and provided 155 grants in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and upstate New York.
The projects — ranging from a new canoe trail in Maine to a riverfront revitalization project in New Hampshire to the installation of fiber optic cables in rural Vermont — have been credited with creating hundreds of jobs, bolstering tourism and keeping businesses in economically depressed rural areas open.
“The Northern Border Regional Commission is a critical source of investment for northern and central Maine, helping to grow the economy and create jobs,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine said in a statement. “We encourage our colleagues to support our bipartisan legislation, which would continue the NBRC’s work to strengthen communities through projects that support business retention and expansion, infrastructure development, and increased access to high-speed telecommunications.”
The legislation, a similar bill which was introduced in the U.S. House last year, was inspired by Trump plans to target this and other regional commissions around the country. The Appalachian Regional Commission, which providing funding to 13 states from Mississippi to New York, is also targeted for closure. Lawmakers from both parties have pledged it will remain open.