DECEMBER 17, 2014 — Here's one that either a sad commentary on the byzantine way in which things get done in Washington, DC, or a tribute to the legislative dexterity of the marine industry's friends in Congress.
In a move applauded by Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) and its members and stakeholders the Senate has passed, by a vote of 76 to16, a 9-cent increase to the barge diesel fuel user fee. The provision was tacked onto legislation establishing tax-favored savings accounts for people with disabilities. A House version included the barge fuel provision passed on December 3 by a vote of 404-17.
The user fee – currently 20-cents-per-gallon of fuel used while operating on the inland system –will be increased to 29-cents-per-gallon, effective April 1, 2015. Deposited into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), this amount is matched by General Treasury Funds and is dedicated to new construction and major rehabilitation of the inland system. The 9-cent-increase will add around $80 million annually to the IWTF.
The Waterways Council says the increase is supported by those who pay it – just 300 commercial operators – while the entire nation benefits, from hydropower, municipal water supply, recreational boating and fishing, flood control, national security, and waterfront property development.