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Owens praises State of the Union

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CANTON - Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, was enthusiastic about President Barack H. Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address on Tuesday.

“I thought it was a very good speech,” Mr. Owens said, noting its positive tone and lauding the president’s efforts to build bridges across the aisle.

In particular, Mr. Owens thought the president’s emphasis on manufacturing jobs was a step in the right direction and could appeal to a bi-partisan audience.

“Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three,” Mr. Obama said.

The president said he wants to create “manufacturing hubs” across the nation that will see businesses “partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.”

Mr. Obama wants to create 18 of these hubs and Mr. Owens said he hopes to bring one of these hubs to upstate New York.

“We do have some opportunities here,” Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens pointed to the recent decision by rail-freight operator CSX Corp. to invest roughly $107.3 million in a line that runs from Syracuse, through Massena, to Montreal as an example of infrastructure developments in upstate New York that could entice businesses to relocate to the region.

“It’s a very good sign,” Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens also praised the president’s focus on tax policy reform — closing loopholes and reducing deductions.

Mr. Owens has long advocated tax reform and said the president’s speech was a step in the right direction.

And Mr. Owens also said the president’s military rhetoric sounded the right note regarding the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan over the next year and a half.

Mr. Obama promised to bring 34,000 troops home over the next year, just over half of the 66,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan.

“Clearly this is following the plan which has been in place for about two years. I think it’s the right move. It’s time we came home, but we need to do it in a safe method,” Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens also agreed with the president that across-the-board budget cuts to federal programs due to take effect on March 1, known as sequestration, would be a “bad idea.”

Mr. Obama said THAT if Congress doesn’t act now, “about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

But, Mr. Owens said, “I’m not seeing much down here that would lead me to conclude that there’s a resolution in the hopper.”

While he doubts there will be time for Congress to act on a deal to avoid the budget cuts, Mr. Owens said, “There will be time post-March 1 to recover from it.”

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