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      Border cities fight for funds at ports of entries

      City leaders agree more lanes and more employees are needed to shorten wait times at border crossings. But in a time of budget cuts, the federal government can TMt pay for either.

      So now border cities are coming together, forming an agreement to foot the bill with the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.

      The state of Texas loses about $116 million per minute at ports of entries because of delays and outdated infrastructures.

      "We are the number one trading area in the whole country. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) said. We need to make sure we help ourselves as much as we can."

      But because of recent budget cuts, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cannot afford to make badly needed improvements and pay for overtime hours for the officers.

      Both of which could increase efficiency at border crossings.

      To solve the problem, CBP is allowing local entities to reimburse the federal government to make the changes.

      "With the traffic count for the bridges, there a direct correlation with the tax base with the city of McAllen and Mission, Anzalduas Bridge board member Rigo Villarreal said. So the higher the traffic coming in the higher the tax revenue for the city."

      A consortium of south Texas cities banded together to be chosen for the reimburse agreement pilot program.

      "There are people and businesses willing to do that because time is money," Cuellar said.

      Some city leaders don TMt completely agree with all parts of the program

      Mission mayor Norberto Salinas said overtime is too costly and asking local governments to pay for federal employees hours is over reaching.

      "We can partnership with them on infrastructure but not on personnel, Salinas said. I don TMt think that is right for us to do. What are they going to ask for later?"

      The program is not mandatory for border cities. Only Laredo, McAllen, Pharr, Rio Grande City and Cameron County are participating.

      Right now the federal government is allocating money to hire more than 1,000 additional CBP officers.

      "Once we have those officers hired and trained and we go through the whole appropriations process the plan is to get those people in here and this pilot program will go away," Cuellar said.

      If efficiency is not improved at border crossings, it is estimate the U.S. economy could lose as much as $14 billion a year by 2020.