Niagara Gazette

January 15, 2014

Gillibrand attacks border fee plan

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's plan to impose border crossing fees — they would also apply to U.S.-Canada trade — appears dead in the water.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said the omnibus spending bill being negotiated in Washington currently includes language that prohibits the fees that the DHS has proposed to study.

At present, New York state has 17 border crossings with Canada. In the Buffalo-Niagara area the major commerce corridors are the Peace Bridge, linking Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont., and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. No commercial carriers are allowed on the Rainbow Bridge or the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, both spans in the City of Niagara Falls.

Gillibrand has argued that "any fee would hurt local economics New York which relies on commerce with Canada." The federal lawmaker cited a National Geographic article stating that 75 percent of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the American border.

Gillibrand added: "A new border fee would have been a major setback to our efforts to promote cross-border commerce and tourism, and limit New York's potential for economic growth at one of the worst possible times. I will continue working directly with Homeland Security to ensure our state's economic priorities are a chief concern at every step of the way on any potential study."

From the outset, when the border fee was initially suggested in the spring of 2013, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Niagara Falls, has staunchly opposed the measure, calling it short-sighted and warning that it could become a barrier to economic growth in Western New York. At the time, the DHS was exploring the possibility of charging pedestrians and passenger cars a crossing fee at the Canadian and Mexican borders to fund its operations at ports of entry.

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a branch of DHS, said the study also would consider how the additional fee might affect the public.