DeFazio Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Boost Funding for Oregon Ports, Create Jobs in Coastal Communities
Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), introduced H.R. 1908 the Investing in America: Unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, legislation that would increase investments in critical harbor and port projects and guarantee that money intended to dredge the nation’s coastal and inland commercial ports would actually go toward harbor maintenance.
“Safe, navigable ports enhance regional and local economic development and sustain and create thousands of jobs in Oregon. Today, I introduced bipartisan, common sense legislation that guarantees increased investments in our ports and harbors, creates jobs in Oregon’s coastal communities, makes conditions safer for our fishing and recreation industries, and provides a tremendous boost to our economic competiveness. And, it does all of this without raising taxes or adding a penny to the deficit,” said DeFazio.
The Investing in America: Unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act provides more than $18 billion over the next decade, which is a 29 percent increase in investment, and will enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge all Federal commercial harbors to their constructed widths and depths. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) estimates that full channels at the Nation’s 59 busiest ports are available less than 35 percent of the time. The Unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund proposal provides the necessary funding to dredge commercial harbors and ports of all sizes, and maintain these harbors for the next decade, without raising a dime in taxes or adding a penny to the deficit.
To learn more about the legislation, click here.
In 1986, Congress enacted the Harbor Maintenance Tax to recover the operation and maintenance dredging costs for commercial ports from maritime shippers. The Harbor Maintenance Tax 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 a Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund within the U.S. Treasury from which Congress currently appropriates funds to the Corps for harbor maintenance dredging.
The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund collects far more revenues from shippers than Congress has provided to the Corps to maintain our harbors, with approximately $9 billion in already collected revenues sitting idle in the U.S. Treasury. As a result, shippers continue to honor their commitment to pay for promised maintenance activities that the Federal Government then fails to carry out. There are sufficient funds in the Trust Fund to meet the maintenance dredging needs of all Federally-authorized ports. The problem is that these funds, which were collected for this express purpose, are diverted to hide the size of the budget deficit.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will collect $18.5 billion in new revenues over the next decade—in addition to the estimated $8.8 billion in previously collected but unspent revenues in the Trust Fund. According to CBO, Federal appropriations from the Trust Fund over the next decade are only expected to total $14.3 billion, and would result in the balance of the Trust Fund doubling—reaching $17.2 billion in fiscal year 2026. The Investing in America: Unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund would finally reverse this trend and all money collected for harbor maintenance would actually go towards harbor maintenance.