Realize America's Maritime Promise
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Fairness Coalition
- The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) was established in 1986 to fund the operation and maintenance of ports and harbors and is funded by the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).
- Appropriations from the HMTF, which are primarily used by the Army Corps of Engineers for maintenance dredging, dredged material disposal areas, jetties, and breakwaters, have lagged behind revenues collected into the HMTF for several years. The resulting HMTF surplus was approximately $7 billion at the end of FY12 and continues to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
- Due to inadequate appropriations from the HMTF, navigation channels are getting narrower and shallower due to sediment accumulation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently reported that almost 30 percent of commercial vessel calls at U.S. ports are constrained due to inadequate channel depths. This means vessels laden with American-made goods cannot carry all they are capable of holding because they cannot get through channels that are not being adequately maintained, nor can ships with imports for the U.S. market enter many ports fully laden due to the same concerns. This drives up the cost of our nation's exports and imports and increases the risk of vessel grounding and associated oil spills.
- Inadequately maintained harbors are becoming like blocked arteries, threatening to choke off the lifeblood of our economy. With our economy trying to recover from a major recession, America's international trade must not be run aground because available funding that was collected for needed and regular dredging of America's commercial waterways is being withheld.
- Thousands of good-paying American jobs would be created or maintained by using HMTF revenues for their intended purpose: maintaining America's waterways.
- Enough HMT revenue is collected each year to meet all of the nation's authorized harbor maintenance needs, but less than half of it is appropriated for harbor maintenance. Charging maritime commerce this tax while failing to provide the service for which it was established is grossly unfair.
- To ensure that HMT revenue entering the HMTF is spent for its intended purpose, Congressmen Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced H.R.335, bipartisan legislation with 35 original cosponsors. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), with 27 original cosponsors have introduced S. 218, a companion bill in the Senate. (HR-335 currently has 98 cosponsors, S 218 has 35 cosponsors)
- This bill solves this problem the same way the Congress did for the Airports and Airways Trust Fund in AIR-21. It legislatively ties HMTF appropriations to HMTF revenue through a guarantee and a point of order without incurring a CBO "pay go" score or being subject to new "cut go" rule that apply to mandatory spending. It would address only future HMTF revenues, not the existing surplus.
- This bipartisan legislation is supported by a broad national coalition ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, to ports, and major labor unions.
Monies collected under the Harbor Maintenance Tax should be used for their intended purpose - maintenance dredging of our Nation's ports and harbors - and not simply to mask the federal debt and deficit. The need is particularly acute now, at a time when the volume of trade is exploding and so many Federal dredging needs are going unmet.