WASHINGTON Bankers may be excused for thinking they are trapped in the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray relives the same day of his life multiple times.
For more than a decade presidential budget plans would have imposed fees on state-chartered banks to cover the cost of exams, and each time lawmakers eliminate them.
This year the fees are back again.
But what surprised industry observers this time was that the proposal came from the Bush administration, despite a long list of Republican lawmakers who have opposed such fees in the past.
We were cautiously optimistic it would not be included this time because it had been so resoundingly opposed by so many quarters for the last several years, said Neil Milner, president of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. But as long as there is a threat, you need to worry. Since it has been teed up again, we need to knock it down again.
And practically every industry representative expects the measure will be stopped, though they will continue to pressure Congress just to be sure.
I dont think it has a prayer it is routinely rejected on a bipartisan basis by the committees with jurisdiction over it, said Edward L. Yingling, lead lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. But we will do our due diligence and make sure it is dead on arrival. Based on its long history, we expect it to be immediately rejected.
Even its chief proponent thinks the measure has no future.
Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr. has argued that it is unfair that state-chartered banks which only have to pay for exams by state officials and not for their additional supervision by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the Federal Reserve Board pay less in fees than national banks.
National banks are charged for every exam, but state banks are assessed for every other exam, which is conducted by state supervisors. That disparity has caused some national banks to switch charters, Mr. Hawke said.
Though Mr. Hawke has argued that legislation to assess fees for federal supervision of state-chartered banks would be the easiest and most logical solution, he concedes the proposal is not politically viable.
Every year the Office of Management and Budget has proposed such a plan, and every year it has been effectively dead on arrival in Congress, he said in a speech in December before the Exchequer Club. While this approach is in many ways the most straightforward, since it would end the subsidization of federal supervision for state banks by national banks and restore a healthier competition to the dual banking system, one has to confront the political reality that Congress is not likely to impose such a new charge on state banks.
A spokesman for Mr. Hawke said that the agency did not suggest that the proposal be included in this years budget.
So the question remains: If so many people oppose the measure or think it has no future, why does it keep turning up?
Some suggested that permanent staff at the Treasury and the budget office adamantly refuse to give up on the measure in the hopes of more revenue. Others speculated that budget planners automatically dust off the same list of revenue raisers each year.