Here is an excerpt from Mark Johanson's article in the International Business Times:
"If the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has its way, Congress may soon authorize the study of a fee to be collected at all land crossings with Canada and Mexico. The contentious issue was buried deep within the department’s proposed 2014 budget, released last week by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. It may have gone relatively unnoticed if U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., hadn’t sounded the alarm late Friday... Higgins also suggested that the fee along the 5,530-mile (8,900-kilometer) Canada-U.S. border would unfairly 'subsidize' the more challenging and expensive southwestern border with Mexico. According to Section 544 of the budget proposal, the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection should 'conduct a study 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.' Currently, travelers aren’t charged fees for crossing the border by car, bus or train... It remains unclear whether the fee would focus on those entering or exiting the U.S., or both. How much each crossing may cost travelers has yet to be determined." Link to Full Article (via Salon.com)
Analysis: As a (very) small business owner, I'll be the first one to tell you that when the cost of doing business goes up - whether that cost comes from more taxes, more expensive supplies, rising travel costs, etc. - those costs almost always get passed on to the customer. In this case, the customers paying the cost of our federal government's little spending spree over the last several years are the roughly 640,000 people crossing our land borders every day. I imagine DHS took one look at those numbers and started doing the math if each of those daily border crossers equaled a dollar bill of income.
The first obvious negative impact that comes to mind is a new fee's effect on cross-border trade. Tens of thousands of people (if not more) cross the border into Mexico and Canada and the other way around to go to work every day, and even more so just to go shopping. Then there are the tens of thousands of trucks that enter the US every day to deliver things like fresh food, flowers, electronic components, trees, clothes...you name it. The fees add up quickly for DHS, but that can mean an expense of several hundred dollars per year for just one person, and thousands of dollars for a company whose employees conduct cross-border business on a regular basis.
I imagine the study will examine things like how much DHS can expect to reasonably charge a border crosser without too much protest, and the practical logistics of taking payment - sensors and stickers (like for toll roads), cash, monthly payment discounts, etc. The main security concern would be if individuals who are super-strapped for cash might look to avoid paying the fee by crossing the border illegally, but I don't really envision that happening en masse, and especially not from people who have to cross on a regular basis. I also can't imagine that DHS would charge more than a few dollars, but DHS never fails to astound in its frequent short-sightedness and lack of common sense.
I'll be curious to see the results of the study in nine months' time, but I have a feeling the negative backlash from the Canadian and Mexican governments will outweigh DHS' need to make a quick buck to help it survive sequestration cuts.