Border fee faces local opposition

May 26, 2013

Local officials want to stop plans for a border crossing fee before they begin.

That’s why U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Twp., supported an amendment in Congress’ 2013 Border Security Results Act that would prohibit the study of such a fee.

The study of a border crossing fee was proposed in President Obama’s 2014 Fiscal Year Budget as a way to support border operations.

The fee’s opposing amendment — which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and supported by Miller — was passed unanimously through the House Committee on Homeland Security, where Miller is vice-chair.

“Department of Homeland Security watched everything that happened there. They have a very clear message about how the Congress feels about a border fee,” Miller said. “There’s no appetite for it on the Democrat or Republican side.”

Miller said the fee, which would be studied over a nine-month period, would affect border towns, with no guarantee that the fees would stay local.

“Who would say where the money would go?” Miller said. “Border security is something the entire country benefits from, so I think the whole country needs to contribute to border security.”

Miller said she received support from the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and Fort Gratiot concerning the amendment.

“That’s helpful for me,” she said. “I’m able to show other members of congress and say this is how one of my communities is impacted.”

Vickie Fournier, president and chief executive officer of the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce, said when the chamber heard of the possible fee and the proposed amendment, it didn’t take long to draft a letter of support. The Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce also signed the letter.

“This fee would really prohibit cross-border commerce,” Fournier said.

“(Miller’s) been doing an outstanding job of cutting this off before it gets going, kind of like a bad weed.”

Jorja Baldwin, supervisor for Fort Gratiot, said the township recently adopted a resolution opposing the border fee.

“We feel very strong that it shouldn’t happen, that these extra fees shouldn’t be assessed, that it would really hurt our community,” she said.

Baldwin estimated Canadian customers account for about 60 percent of business at Fort Gratiot stores. The fee would affect dramatically those area businesses that rely on Canadian traffic.

“The trickle-down effect is that we don’t have access to those things if they aren’t supported by the Canadians,” Baldwin said, referring to retailers along 24th Avenue.

“When you drive through a parking lot and you see more Canadian plates than U.S. plates, that tells you who’s supporting it.”

Miller was unsure when the amendment to the border security act would make it to the House floor; but, given the amendment’s bipartisan support, she felt confident of its success.

“They’re running into a wall on this one,” she said.