Great Lakes Maritime Industry And Customers Oppose Icebreaking User Charges02/27:
Lake Carriers' Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, American Great Lakes Ports and the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force have sent a joint letter to Great Lakes Senators and members of the House opposing the Clinton Administration's proposal to implement a user charge for icebreaking starting in FY1999. The proposed fee would generate $25 million a year. The letter, dated February 25, follows:
Dear Senator/Dear Representative:
We are writing to express our firm opposition to a provision in President Clinton's FY1998 Budget to develop and implement a "fee-for-service" for icebreaking performed by the U.S. Coast Guard on the Great Lakes by FY1999. This ill-conceived proposal must be immediately rejected as both bad for the Great Lakes and national economies and a major reversal of long-standing U.S. government policy.
Without Coast Guard icebreaking, the Great Lakes shipping industry would be so reduced in scope that it would become a "used to be" in the nation's transportation system. The ice season can begin in early December and generally lasts until early or mid-April. (In 1996, the Coast Guard continued "ice ops" on Lake Superior until May 17.) Every facet of Great Lakes shipping is affected by Coast Guard icebreaking - the domestic trades, imports and exports to
and from Canada, and overseas cargos via the St. Lawrence Seaway. In recent years, these trades have approached 200 million tons.
In the past three years, U.S.-Flag vessels have carried approximately 46 million tons of cargo
during the ice season. Iron ore for the steel industry predominates that total. Had these cargos gone undelivered, Great Lakes basin steel mills would have faced shutdowns and lay-offs when their stockpiles were exhausted. Millions of tons of coal, stone, cement, grain and general cargo also moved to and from Canada and overseas during periods of ice.
Government-funded icebreaking is not "corporate welfare." The American steel industry, the iron ore mining industry in Minnesota and Michigan, and U.S.-Flag Great Lakes carriers collectively pay more than $1 billion a year in corporate taxes to the Federal Treasury. Their employees (140,000 strong) are likewise major contributors to the Federal Treasury. It is blatantly unfair for these industries and citizens to be asked to bear an even greater share of
the Federal budget.
Furthermore, the Coast Guard provides a variety of services to commercial navigation,
recreational boaters and the fishing industry throughout the United States. However, the Administration's budget singles out domestic icebreaking - a service provided almost entirely on the Great Lakes - for user fees. In fact, there are no other user fee proposals contained in the Coast Guard budget. The proposal is blatantly unfair in that it asks our region and its industries to pay for Coast Guard services, while no effort is made to recover costs for services provided on the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico or other regions.
We urge you to communicate your strong opposition to user charges for Coast Guard icebreaking to Secretary of Transportation Slater and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Kramek by contacting Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar and signing the attachedletter.
American Great Lakes Ports
American Iron and Steel Institute
Great Lakes Maritime Task Force
Lake Carriers' Association
Reported by: the Lake Carriers Association
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