The federal government should not waste its time considering whether to impose a fee on passenger vehicles and pedestrians crossing the Canadian and Mexican borders.
The reason is simple. As Chris Plunkett, a spokesman at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, put it: “… any study would conclude that the considerable economic damage any fee would do would greatly outweigh any revenue generated.”
If that isn’t enough to convince the federal government that a fee will not raise the revenue it hopes for, then it ought to pay attention to the general manager of the Peace Bridge. Ron Rienas said much of the damage would occur on the American side, given that 75 percent of those who crossed the Peace Bridge in the first three months of the year were Canadians, many headed to stores in Western New York.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, also raised a red flag. The Department of Homeland Security has suggested studying the fee in its 2014 budget proposal, released last week. Higgins did exactly what he should have done – send a rebuke to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stressing that imposing a fee would not increase economic activity at the northern border, but do just the opposite.
Moreover, he makes a good point when he wonders aloud whether the fee at the northern border would be imposed only to help pay for the increased cost of protecting the Mexican border. Given that the proposed immigration reform requires tightening security along the border with Mexico, it’s a good question.
Napolitano’s memory was apparently playing tricks on her when she told Higgins at a Homeland Security Committee hearing last Thursday that she was not aware of any fee study. This despite the fact that her written testimony made a number of points about such a fee.
On paper, the secretary seems to think it’s a good idea.
A fee at land border crossings would help pay for America’s massive effort to patrol its borders, according to Napolitano-the-author. Despite millions of cross-border travelers each year accounting for $150 billion in economic activity, she says an outdated fee structure does not support security operations. And, she said, there is a “staffing gap” at border crossings.
Think of the impact Canadian shoppers have on our sales tax revenue and retail activity, and the Americans who pop across the border for a quick visit to Canada. Imposing a fee will give those travelers one more reason not to make the trip. And, of course, the devil’s in the details on who would collect the new fee and what infrastructure would have to be created to do so.
As Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said, seeking to slap travelers here with onerous fees is a bad idea.