Congressman says border fee would create a barrier to economic growth in WNY, US
Congressman Brian Higgins, NY-26, is sounding the alarm on a proposal within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's fiscal year 2014 budget, which requests a study to determine the feasibility of collecting a fee from pedestrians and passenger vehicles crossing between the U.S. and Canada by land.
"Putting up barriers to regional and binational commerce is the absolute last thing we should be doing if we want to grow the economies of Western New York and the U.S.," Higgins said. "I was shocked to see a proposal for a new toll at the northern border and I will fight to put the brakes on this shortsighted fee."
Higgins questioned DHS Secretary Napolitano about the proposal at a House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security hearing this week and followed up with a letter to the secretary reiterating strong opposition to the plan.
The United States and Western New York economies rely heavily on the flow of goods and people across the border. The U.S. and Canadian bilateral trade relationship facilitates the exchange of $1.5 billion in goods each day - freight that is linked to more than 1 million U.S. jobs.
Roughly 300,000 individuals cross the shared border daily, many crossing bridges in Western New York. Passenger vehicle visitors from Canada spend an estimated $235 million annually in the U.S., of which approximately $133 million is tied to the Buffalo Niagara region.
Below is the language as it appears in the Department of Homeland Security's budget proposal:
"SEC.544. (a) The Commissioner of the United States Customs and Border Protection shall:
"(1)conduct a study assessing the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for both land border pedestrians and passenger vehicles along the northern and southwest borders of the United States; the study should include:
"(A)the feasibility of collecting from existing operators on the land border such as bridge commissions, toll operators, commercial passenger bus, and commercial passenger rail;
"(B)requirements to collect at land ports of entry where existing capability is not present; and
"(C)any legal and regulatory impediments to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee; and
"(2)complete the study within 9 months of enactment of this Act".
Higgins is a member of the House committees on homeland security and foreign affairs and serves on the U.S.-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Group. Higgins also sent a letter to the House Ways and Means committee, which has jurisdiction and would need to approve the fee. His congressional district of Western New York borders Canada and includes three automobile and two rail border crossings along the northern border.