Entire WNY Congressional Delegation Opposes "Border Fee"

7:02 PM, Apr 26, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Those who represent Western New York in Washington are digging in their heels over the possibility of a new fee for crossing the border currently under study by the Obama administration. And, their opposition is unanimous.

The Department of Homeland Security is feeling financial pressure to keep up with the burgeoning cost of keeping the borders secured.

An additional fee on the many that travel between Canada and the U.S at the four border crossings of Western New York could potentially bring untold millions of additional dollars for border protection enhancements.

However, if those who represent Western New York in Congress have their way, the idea will not ever gain enough traction to make it even half way across the Peace Bridge.

"I'm going to fight it," said Rep. Brian Higgins (D- South Buffalo). "I'm also reaching out to other members of congress both democrat and republican who also represent border states, to fight it as well," Higgins told WGRZ-TV.

"To me it's just another indication of a money grab," said Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence).

As the former Erie County Executive of the only county in the state that gleans more from sales tax than property tax, due largely to the influx of cross border shoppers, Collins says it would be terrible for the local economy.

"I have signed on, with Congressman Higgins, in a correspondence to the administration saying we can't support this," Collins told Two On Your Side.

New York's two U.S. Senators, both democrats, are also speaking out in opposition to any new border security fee.

"A new border fee would be a major setback to our efforts to promote cross-border commerce and tourism, and limit Western New York's potential for economic growth at one of the worst possible times," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "I will work directly with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure Western New York's economic priorities are a chief concern at every step of the way on any potential study."

"From Western New York's malls and shopping centers, to Buffalo Bills and Sabres games and the growing Buffalo waterfront - Canadian visitors are a key pillar of Buffalo's economy," said Senator Charles Schumer. "A secure and efficient border crossing is the lifeblood of the Western New York economy and seeking to slap travelers here with onerous fees is a bad idea. We don't need a study to tell us that."
Some also worry that if the fee did come to pass, much of the money collected here would somehow end up going to enhance security measures at the much more labor intensive southern U.S. border with Mexico.

Even if it were stipulated that any money collected at the Western New York border crossings be used only on security enhancements in this region, both Higgins and Collins said they still could not support it.

They say such a stipulation would still not address their primary concern: an adverse impact on the number of Canadian shoppers who venture into the area to spend money, and who are--as a result--a mainstay of the local economy.

"There are already too many fees. We already pay taxes to pay for customs and border protection," said Higgins. "I don't think that the Department of Homeland Security has advanced a compelling argument that a new fee is needed."

Click on the video player to watch ours story from 2 on Your Side reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dooley O'Rourke. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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