Mexican sales tax hike could mean longer lines to cross border

Imperial Valley

Mexican sales tax hike could mean longer lines to cross border

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CALEXICO, CALIF. (13 On Your Side) - You would think a sales tax hike in Mexico would prompt a surge of residents there to cross into California to do all of their shopping - spending even more money on this side of the border. But long lines at the port of entry might be a problem.

Long lines at the Calexico port of entry are an every day fact of life for travelers. And now, with a projected increase in people coming here to shop, California's governor is asking the feds to make some big changes.

California has an advantage over Mexico when it comes to groceries. Food products here are not taxed and that could be a major incentive for Mexicali shoppers.

But now that a sales tax increase in Mexicali and other border towns went into effect from 11% to 16% - Eduardo Lopez, who owns a grocery store on this side of the border - is hoping his business will see more shoppers spending more money.

"Being on first street, 100 feet from the border, 90% of my customers are from Mexicali."

But according to Lopez, Mexican officials are using the long wait times at the ports of entry to convince shoppers to stay home and spend their money in Mexico.

"They're getting contrary advertising saying 'long wait times - its not worth it.' So, its kind of a give and take but hopefully we'll benefit," says Lopez.

Despite an opportunity for U.S. business owners, like Lopez, to profit - Imperial County supervisor John Renison agrees - longer wait times could deter people from coming across.

"Right now you have an hour and a half, two hour backups anyway. Well, with an outdated port of entry, with not enough lanes - inspectors, we have plenty - but we don't have the capacity."

That's why California Governor Jerry Brown recently asked Washington to approve a $350,000,000 grant to fund the expansion of the Calexico port of entry.

Renison says the Governor's request spells out an increased awareness of the bottlenecks along the border - but now it's up to the feds to approve the grant.

"It is in our best interest - for economic reasons - other reasons, and humanitarian reasons and good relation reasons to fund the Calexico port of entry," says Renison.

Meanwhile, Lopez says only time will tell how well his business, and others, will profit. He says they'll find out the impact by next month.