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Great Lakes Article:

Senators oppose ship tolls
The Mining Journal
Published March 10th, 2005


WASHINGTON - Two U.S. senators from Michigan are spearheading an effort in the Senate to head off a Bush administration plan to levy tolls on ships passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The tolls would cost Great Lakes shippers an estimated $8 million, according to Democratic senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin.
Stabenow, Levin and other opponents of the proposal argue that the toll would make goods and raw materials shipped through the Great Lakes more expensive, eliminate waterfront and maritime jobs, deny farmers access to foreign markets, and drive shippers to other less environmentally friendly and less safe means of transportation.

In a bipartisan letter to the Senate Budget Committee, Stabenow, Levin and others said shippers coming to U.S. markets already pay for maintenance of the seaway through a harbor maintenance tax imposed in 1986. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund created by this tax is projected to have a surplus of $459 million by the end of fiscal year 2006.

Stabenow said the proposal hurts Michigan and other states in an area where they are already suffering - jobs.

"At a time when we should be doing everything we can to create jobs, once again a short-sighted proposal from the administration could cost Michigan jobs," she said. "This proposal is bad for Michigan's economy and for Great Lakes commerce."

"In a time where job creation should be our priority, the president's proposal could harm our Great Lakes shipping industry," Levin said. "We should be focusing on attracting more business into our ports, not driving it away."

The senators said the toll amounted to a tax on Great Lakes business and industry. Approximately 40 million to 50 million tons of cargo pass through the seaway each year.

"We are very concerned that this new toll fee could drive commercial shipping away from the Great Lakes, which would hurt our agricultural, steel and coal industries, among others," Stabenow and Levin said in a joint statement.

In addition to its negative impact on trade, transportation infrastructure and jobs, the senators said the tolls amount to double-dipping because of the harbor maintenance tax already being levied.

"These tolls are unfair, inappropriate and a step backward in our efforts to create and protect jobs in Michigan and other Great Lakes states," they said.

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