MI Rep Opsommer Blasts High Costs of Passports, Senator Schumer for Border Plan

Posted on December 2nd, 2011 Dan

GOPHouse.gov December 2, 2011

State Rep. Paul Opsommer, Chair of the Michigan House Transportation Committee, today criticized Senator Charles Schumer’s recently announced border plan, calling it “more of the same half-baked federal solutions that make the very problems they created even worse.”

Opsommer pointed out that it has been roughly five years since the Government Accountability Office issued a scathing report saying that not only could the federal government not justify the high price of passports, but that they didn’t even have a process in place to make sure passports hadn’t been turned into a profit center.

To add insult to injury, federal passport prices have been increased since that report was released, and Schumer was quoted by WGRZ Channel 2 as saying that the cost of new mobile application centers would not increase prices because “It’ll come out of the fee, you pay for the fee, and there’s enough money in the fees to pay for these things.”

Opsommer said that statement proves that once again they are charging too much.

“If you can start buying and outfitting all these new high tech mobile homes without raising prices because existing fees already cover it, then by definition the fees were too high to begin with,” said Opsommer, R-DeWitt. “If the federal government is determined to use behavioral economics to accomplish their goals, if anything they should be making traditional federal passports less expensive and fully tax deductible.  The federal government needs to stop using behavioral economics to try to manipulate people away from traditional federal passports through high costs and unjustifiable delays in processing.”

Opsommer also disagreed on the reason why NEXUS cards and Enhanced Driver’s Licenses were failing to catch on, and said that the mobile busses would be a waste of time.

“If Schumer wants to use his clout in Washington to help border states such as Michigan, he should be reining in federal bureaucrats who are trying to force citizens to accept long range wireless computer chips in our driver’s licenses,” said Opsommer. “Those RFID chips are different than the ones used in federal passports, and Schumer’s refusal to let states create unobtrusive trusted traveler documents is the real reason why Enhanced Drivers Licenses have been such a dismal failure in New York and Michigan,”

Opsommer also said that creating more RFID only car lanes is just another example of using behavioral economics to manipulate people into courses of action that they otherwise wouldn’t take.

“People don’t like to feel that they are being pushed around, tracked, and controlled,” said Opsommer.  “If Schumer thinks more RFID lanes is the answer, all he has to do is look at how people responded to the new ‘High Occupancy Toll’ lanes in Georgia.  Trying to make people so miserable to wear them down into compliance won’t work in Michigan, and if you look at states or provinces like Arizona and Saskatchewan that have banned these outright I don’t think they’re going to work elsewhere either.”

Opsommer said that despite resolutions passed both in Michigan and with the National Conference of State Legislators that the federal government refuses to attack the real problem at its most basic level.

“We need to be able to come up with a $25 dollar passport, and a passport that only takes a couple of weeks to process.  Instead we’re charging through the roof for them and having the chips manufactured overseas. If Schumer agrees that international trade is as important as I do, we need to address this problem at its core and not to use it opportunistically to try to force people into something.  I don’t care how many big busses he sends to senior citizen centers or places of employment to try to enroll everyone in his system, it’s not going to work.”

Opsommer concluded by calling on Congress to take control of the Enhanced Driver’s License program away from bureaucrats and to hold the federal Department of State and Department of Homeland Security accountable.

“Let’s keep all of this simple,” said Opsommer. “Make this a priority by getting your passport house in order and start lowering prices.”


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