May 25, 2013

Senators oppose border crossing fees

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King join other senators expressing their concerns about the plan.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA - Maine's two senators are joining other members of Congress in opposing border crossing fees along the northern and southwestern borders.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, and independent Sen. Angus King, along with other senators, sent a letter Friday expressing their concerns about the Department of Homeland Security's plan to study the feasibility of imposing a crossing fee along the borders.

The letter to Sens. Mary Landrieu and Dan Coats, the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said that for many border community residents, "crossing the border is a way of life in order to access essential services, travel to their jobs, to shop and dine, to attend church, and to visit family and friends."

The letter says a decrease in tourism resulting from the fees "would have a detrimental impact on these border communities and hinder current and future economic relationships between the U.S. and its neighbors."

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., circulated a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that called the fees "the absolute last thing we should be doing to grow our economy" and said, "It would be a waste of government resources to even study the flawed idea."

On April, 29, Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota signed a letter along with 18 other members of Congress asking Napolitano to reject the plan for fees, which are in the department's 2014 budget.

Cramer, who is co-chairman of the Northern Border Caucus and a member of the Travel and Tourism Caucus in the U.S. House, estimated his state welcomes more than 1 million visitors from Canada each year. The state also offers Canadians a refund of state sales taxes they pay on certain items.

"We're trying to attract travelers with our tax policy in North Dakota, and now the federal government is looking at doing just the opposite," Cramer said.

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