Governor Douglas and Quebec premier question passport requirement

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas and Quebec premier Jean Charest are calling on the Bush Administration to conduct a thorough economic study of the plan to require passports for travel between the U.S. and Canada.

The resolution will be presented to a meeting of New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers this weekend.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Bush Administration wants people traveling between the United States and Canada to have a passport — or a passport-like document — by the beginning of 2007, if they travel by air; and by January of 2008, if they travel by car.

The plan has been strongly opposed by many Canadian premiers and the governors of most states that are located along the Canadian border.

The Bush Administration says the measure is needed to help crack down on the number of terrorists coming across the northern border.

Initial efforts to urge the Administration to delay the implementation of the new plan haven’t been successful and so opponents are taking a new approach.

Douglas and Quebec premier Jean Charest are presenting a resolution to the region’s governors and premiers that calls on the Administration to conduct a comprehensive economic impact study of the passport plan:

(Douglas) “The Congress passed the requirement two years ago and the rulemaking process is underway and we’re very concerned about the impact on trade, on tourism, on the social lives of people in border communities. So we think it’s every important that the Department conduct a study to determine really what the impact of this initiative will be.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he understands the need to protect the country from terrorists, but he thinks there’s a better way to achieve this goal:

(Douglas) “This is a very significant change of federal policy. I understand it, because the security concerns that we all share following the 9/11 attacks and other issues that are now quite obvious. But we have to make sure that the border between these two long standing friendly nations remains open and accessible. So finding that right balance may take some time.”

(Kinzel) Meanwhile, on another issue, Douglas says it’s not likely that he’ll veto an education financing bill passed by lawmakers earlier this week.

The legislation lowers the statewide property tax rate, but not by as much as Douglas requested. That’s because lawmakers included several provisions to expand the income sensitive portions of Act 60.

Douglas could allow the bill to become law without his signature as a way to signal his unhappiness with the bill:

(Douglas) “I certainly don’t to forego a 7-cent reduction in the statewide property tax that will important to our taxpayers. So I’ve got to weigh over the next few days whether the inadequacy of the tax reduction warrants reject it or whether to conclude it’s forward progress, albeit not as much as I’d like.”

(Kinzel) Douglas will be vetoing legislation that allows farmers to seek damages from the manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds if the seeds cross-pollinate nearby organic farmland.

The governor plans to veto that bill in Franklin County on Monday afternoon.

The veto means that lawmakers will be called back to Montpelier for a special veto session on June 1st.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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