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Congressman Owens introduces amendment to block “border fee” proposal

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MASSENA - Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, has introduced an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that could block the proposed “border fee” study from being funded.

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed the amendment Wednesday and the House of Representatives will be voting on the bill later this year.

“The idea of charging a border fee is wrong-headed, and the damage done to economic development and tourism along the border would cost more than the government could ever collect through fees,” Mr. Owens said in a news release.

Mr. Owens’ amendment would bar Homeland Security from using any funding provided under the bill to study or implement border crossing fees for passenger vehicles and pedestrians at the northern and southern borders.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, had introduced a similar amendment to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act earlier this month.

In its budget submission, DHS had proposed to complete a study within nine months of enactment “assessing the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for both land border pedestrians and passenger vehicles along the northern and southwest borders of the United States.”

Mr. Owens, co-chairman of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, had vowed to fight the proposal in April calling it a “bad idea” and an “additional barrier for commerce.”

Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, applauded Mr. Owens’ efforts and agreed that imposing a border levy simply sends the wrong message to Canadian tourist and shoppers to the U.S.

Also, Mr. DeYoung said, whatever the federal government might raise by assessing visitors a border crossing fee, local businesses and municipalities would likely lose in sales and tax revenue.

“This amendment will bar the use of funds to study or implement a border fee, stopping the idea in its tracks. I am hopeful this amendment will continue through the legislative process and help convince DHS that it’s time to drop the idea altogether,” Mr. Owens said.

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