AMERICAN JOURNAL OF TRANSPORTATION
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)—the unified and recognized voice of seaports in the Americas—lauded H.R. 2028, the U.S. House of Representatives’ fiscal 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that passed today, together with two bi-partisan amendments included in the bill. Of particular interest to AAPA is the portion of the bill that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation program, which manages improvements and maintenance of federal navigation channels at U.S. ports.
The first amendment, offered by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) and Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA), increased the appropriation for Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) spending by $36.3 million. The second amendment, offered by Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), T&I Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-CA), and Congressional Ports Caucus Co-Chair Ted Poe (R-TX), ensured that the expenditures from the Corps of Engineers’ Operations & Maintenance account complied with the intent of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.
WRRDA 2014 established target amounts for Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) funding levels, as well as an allocation formula to address tax fairness and donor equity issues for distribution of the nationwide HMT tax collections.
“With today’s passage of H.R. 2028, the nation moved an important step forward in carrying out the intent of WRRDA, which is the focus of AAPA’s “Hit the HMT Target” campaign,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO. The AAPA campaign follows WRRDA 2014’s 10-year plan to incrementally ratchet up spending of HMT tax collections so that, by fiscal year 2025, all taxes collected for operations and maintenance of America’s navigation channels will be spent as authorized in WRRDA 2014.
Mr. Nagle praised Representatives Hahn and Huizenga for their bi-partisan amendment that added $36.3 million to the Corps of Engineers’ O&M account for harbor maintenance in order to reach WRRDA 2014’s fiscal year 2016 target of $1.25 billion. He also praised Representatives DeFazio, Napolitano and Poe for their bi-partisan amendment to ensure that the WRRDA 2014’s target spending levels and allocation formulas were met.
“Even as we celebrate success in the House to pay for critical maintenance to America’s deep-draft navigation channels and harbors, we must immediately turn attention to the Senate’s appropriation bill, which needs to match the House bill’s HMT spending levels and funding allocation language,” said Mr. Nagle. “For the sake of the more than 21 million jobs generated by the seaport industry, it’s crucial that America’s deep-draft navigation channels be adequately maintained. The fact is that while over a quarter of the nation’s $17.4 trillion economy is accounted for by port cargo activity, neither the waterside nor landside connections with our ports are receiving adequate federal investment, which puts our economy at risk and reduces America’s competitiveness in global markets.”