CBO: Fees to cover regulations could raise $21 billion

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the federal government could raise as much as $21 billion over the next 10 years by making businesses and individuals pay to cover regulations and services.

To raise the money, the government would need to impose user fees for waterway systems, registering new pesticides and to offset rail safety costs, among other areas. 

The largest single source of potential income would be the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Requiring businesses to pay for the food safety work, the CBO found, would raise as much as $11.2 billion over the next decade.

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“A rationale for implementing user charges is that private businesses should cover all of their costs of doing business, including the costs of ensuring the safety of their activities and products,” the office said in a report explaining the possible fees.

“In addition, it is argued that the private sector should compensate the government for the market value of services it benefits from, such as the dredging of the inland waterway system, and for using or acquiring resources on public lands, such as grasslands for grazing.”

On the other hand, the CBO noted that opponents of the fees would say that “some of the products and services provided by private businesses are beneficial to people not involved in producing or consuming those products and services,” like lower traffic congestion that comes as a result of train systems with strong safety rules. 

The budget office listed imposing user fees on everything from grazing land to financial transactions as one of more than 100 options to reduce the deficit through 2023. 

The report noted that many of the surcharges could either be counted as revenue, like taxes, or as collections. Unlike revenue, collections are counted by being subtracted from spending programs.