9:22am

Fri April 26, 2013
Business

Business lines up against proposed border crossing fee

Business leaders are joining with several New York members of Congress who oppose the idea of introducing a fee for visitors crossing the border into the U.S., citing the importance of Canadians to upstate New York’s economy.

The Department of Homeland Security says the proposed border crossing fee would help generate revenue, and wants to fund a study of the idea as part of its 2014 budget.

But business owners on this side of the border worry it would reduce tourism and hurt business.

"It’s not going back in to generate more tourism; it’s just hitting the visitor that’s coming across. We’re punishing the visitor then for coming across versus encouraging them an rewarding them for coming across," says David Holder, head of the Syracuse Visitor’s and Convention Bureau.

Certain crossings already charge a fee or toll for upkeep of infrastructure, but Holder notes that money goes to improving the crossing or attracting more visitors.

The Destiny USA mega mall in Syracuse says the number of Canadians visiting has increased 12-15 percent every year since it opened two decades ago. Canadians make up more than a quarter of its business, according to spokesman David Aitken.

"Any time where you charge a fee for access traveling over the border is indeed an impediment," Aitken says. "We’ve working very hard to put the welcome mat out; to welcome our neighbors from Canada and see this as a concern.

New York congressional members on both sides of aisle have come out against it. Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, says the idea is “a penny short and pound foolish.”

"It would only raise a tiny, tiny fraction of a percent of the total deficit," Schumer said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. "It’s a drop in the budget, but could be a sledge hammer to our local economy."

Just how much the fee would be hasn’t been mentioned, but it would also be applied to the Mexican border.