This morning, May 9, 2019, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio addressed the Propeller Club of Washington, DC at its monthly breakfast. Chairman DeFazio spoke about the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and his strong support for the Jones Act. Yesterday, Chairman DeFazio passed out of Committee H.R. 2440, Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act.
“It’s an honor to have the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee speak at the Propeller Club,” said William P. Doyle, CEO & Executive Director of the Dredging Contractors of America. “The T&I is full of a diverse array of ‘get-er-done’ bipartisan legislators. We support Chairman DeFazio’s initiatives and commend him for his leadership.”
From yesterday’s (May 8, 2019) mark-up hearing in the House as first reported by DredgeWire Media, http://dredgewire.com/:
T&I Chairman DeFazio: “This is a long overdue investment from this committee. I’ve always objected to the idea of collecting a tax for a specific purpose,and yet, somehow diverting or spending the money elsewhere or using it as an illusory deficit offset. HMTF would be much better used for its intended purpose [maintenance dredging] and this legislation would guarantee that.”
Subcommittee Chair Water Resources and Environment Grace Napolitano: “In 1986, Congress enacted the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the maintenance of those harbors. The problem is the Trust Fund collects more revenue than the President’s budget requests and the Congress has appropriated the extra funding to maintain our harbors.” She continued, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Trust Fund will collect an additional $24.5 billion in new revenues over the next decade, but federal appropriations from the Trust Fund will only be $19.4 billion. This discrepancy is in addition to the $9.3 billion in previously collected but unspent revenue. As we pass this responsible budget bill today, I look forward to working with my colleagues as we move forward with a Water Resources Development Act –in this Congress—to address inequities in how these funds are spent.”
T&I Ranking Member Sam Graves: “America’s ports and harbors are vital to the entire economy and they are an integral part of our cohesive national infrastructure system. Farmers, manufacturers, business’ across the country—whether they are near the coast or not—rely on the ports for our trade. And every day, most Americans buy something that has traveled through a port at some time. This bill ensures billions of dollars in additional funds, already collected to improve our ports and harbors, are invested for their intended purpose without raising a single dime in new taxes. This will make the transportation system more efficient; and it’s going to help keep the cost of goods lower for everyone.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member Water Resources and Environment Bruce Westerman: “H.R. 2440 does ensure that the Harbor Maintenance Fund is used for its intended purpose—and that is to maintain our federally authorized harbors. This bipartisan bill was introduced by Chairman DeFazio who has long been a champion of this issue.” Congressman Westerman then narrowed down the issue, stating “The problem is simple, on top of the fact that our harbors desperately need maintenance, the Trust Fund collects more revenue from shippers than Congress has appropriated to the Corps of Engineers to maintain our harbors. Approximately $9.3 billion in already collected revenue is enough to address our nation’s harbor maintenance backlog, but it sits idle. This bill would enable money collected for dredging and maintaining our ports and harbors to be fully spent for those purposes.
The HMT is directly levied on importers and domestic shippers using coastal or inland ports as a 0.125 percent ad valorem tax on the value of imported cargo (e.g., $1.25 per $1,000 value) and is typically passed along to U.S. taxpayers on the purchase of imported goods or services. These revenues are deposited into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund within the U.S. Treasury from which Congress currently appropriates funds to the Corps for harbor maintenance dredging.
H.R. 2440 was favorably reported out of Committee and to the House.