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Stabenow, Levin Fight Proposed Tolls on Great Lakes Shipping

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Location: Washington, DC


Stabenow, Levin Fight Proposed Tolls on Great Lakes Shipping

Senators work to defeat new tax that will cost Michigan jobs

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Carl Levin (D-MI) today led the effort to defeat President Bush's proposal to levy new tolls on commercial ships passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway. The proposed tolls would cost Great Lakes shippers an estimated $8 million in the first year alone, doubling to $16 million the following year, and increasing each year thereafter.

In a bipartisan letter to the Senate Budget Committee, Stabenow, Levin and others expressed their strong concerns that the proposed tolls would result in the loss of jobs in Michigan. The proposed toll would make goods and raw materials shipped through the Great Lakes more expensive, deny Michigan farmers access to foreign markets and drive commercial shipping away from the Great Lakes.

"We should be doing everything we can to bring jobs to Michigan," Stabenow said. "This new tax being proposed by the President would take us in the wrong direction. New tolls for shipping on the Great Lakes would hurt Michigan's economy and should be rejected."

The President's proposal would drive business and jobs out of our state at a time when Michigan is struggling to create more economic opportunity," Levin said. "The tolls would unfairly target Great Lakes shippers as well as the countless Michigan businesses that depend on the St. Lawrence Seaway to ship their products."

In their letter, Stabenow and Levin noted that shippers on the Great Lakes already pay a user fee to support the operation and maintenance of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Revenue from that tax is deposited into the Harbor Maritime Trust Fund, which now has a $3 billion surplus. The President's proposed commercial toll would be an additional tax on the Great Lakes shipping industry - one that is not being proposed for shippers in any other region in the United States.

In his budget last year, President Bush proposed commercial tolls for shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway, but the new tolls were rejected by Congress. Stabenow and Levin called on the Senate Budget Committee to reject the proposed tax again this year.

Full text of the letter is below.

March 7, 2006

The Honorable Judd Gregg
Chairman
Senate Budget Committee
624 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington , DC 20510

The Honorable Kent Conrad
Ranking Member
Senate Budget Committee
624 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington , DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member:

As Senators from the Great Lakes region, we are writing to urge you to reject a proposal in the Administration's Fiscal Year 2007 budget that calls for new commercial tolls on the United States section of the St. Lawrence Seaway . This same proposal was included in the Administration's Fiscal Year 2006 budget and rejected by Congress last year. We ask that it be rejected once again.

The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway shipping system connects Great Lakes states with international markets and provides a cost effective means of export for both farmers and manufacturers from our region. An estimated $400 billion worth of cargo has moved through the Seaway in its 46-year history. This shipping system supports thousands of maritime-related jobs including longshoremen, truckers, crane operators, warehousemen, shipyard workers, tug operators, vessel agents, and marine pilots.

A commercial toll would act as a new tax on our shipping system, hurting the Great Lakes maritime economy and costing the region jobs. This toll is particularly troublesome since no similar tax or maritime user fee has been proposed for any other region of the country.

It is also important to note that Great Lakes navigation system users are already paying a user fee to support the operation and maintenance of the St. Lawrence Seaway . The Harbor Maintenance Tax was enacted in 1986 for that specific purpose and is currently assessed at all Great Lakes and coastal ports. Revenue from the tax is deposited into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which today carries a surplus balance of more than $3 billion.

We appreciate the Committee's sensitivity to our concerns last year and we urge you to once again reject the Administration's toll proposal.

Sincerely,

Debbie Stabenow
Carl Levin
Mike DeWine
Richard Lugar
George Voinovich
Herb Kohl
Russ Feingold
Barack Obama
Mark Dayton

http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=252261

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