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Harbor Maintenance Legislation Progresses

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

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Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 296 to 109 in favor of the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, H.R. 2440, a measure that would see the appropriation of $34 billion by Congress over the next 10 years to restore U.S. navigation channels to original dimensions.

“The legislation will stop the diversion of HMTF payments and provide a means for Congress to spend down the more than $9 billion that has been diverted in previous years," said American Association of Port Authorities President and CEO Chris Connor.

Harbor Maintenance Tax History

According to The Maritime Executive, Congress enacted the Harbor Maintenance Tax in 1986 in order to recoup dredging costs for commercial ports. The HMT is leveraged against both importers and domestic shippers using coastal and inland ports.

bfk92 / Getty Images

Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 296 to 109 in favor of the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, H.R. 2440, a measure that would see the appropriation of $34 billion by Congress over the next 10 years to restore U.S. navigation channels to original dimensions.

“The HMT is directly levied on importers and domestic shippers using coastal or inland ports as a 0.125[%] 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,” writes the DOT.

From there, the earnings are placed in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is used to finance dredging work.

Most recently, in April of this year, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Missouri) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-California), among other sponsors, introduced the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act.

According to the Department of Transportation, around $9.3 billion in collected revenue is currently sitting in the U.S. Treasury, not being used for its intended purpose. A number of ports are also struggling to remain competitive.

House of Representatives Vote

“America’s ports and harbors are vital to the entire economy,” said Graves at the time the measure was announced. “Farmers, manufacturers and businesses across the country rely on ports for trade, and the products we all buy at the store on a daily basis have often traveled by water at some point to get there. 

“The agriculture economy in my home state of Missouri relies on our Nation’s port infrastructure to send our products all over the world. When any portion of our national infrastructure system doesn’t function properly that raises the costs of goods for everyone. Congress should ensure that the funds collected to improve the efficiency of our ports are invested for their intended purpose.”

The recent vote required two-thirds super majority from the House in order to move forward under “suspension of the rules.”

   

Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Port Infrastructure; Ports; Program/Project Management

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