Committee approves Harbor Maintenance bill by bipartisan voice vote

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Image: Architect of the Capitol

The Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act (H.R. 2440) is among a slate of bipartisan measures approved by voice vote today by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

“I am pleased the Committee approved my bipartisan legislation to unlock billions in already collected taxes in order to better maintain our nation’s ports and harbors,” said Chair Peter DeFazio (D.-Ore.), who introduced the measure on May 6.

“The bills we approved today are about good government. The ‘Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act’ ensures that these user fees we collect are used for their intended purpose – investing in America’s ports and harbors,” said Ranking Member Sam Graves (R.-Mo.). “

“For years—during Republican and Democratic administrations alike—the Harbor Maintenance tax has been diverted from its intended purpose, which is to ensure our Nation’s ports and harbors are properly dredged and fully operational. It’s past time we put those taxes back into much-needed improvements,” said Chair DeFazio. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will make approximately $34 billion in harbor maintenance taxes available over the next decade for harbor maintenance, assuring we are able to save and create jobs, grow businesses, and keep us globally competitive. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this bill and advancing it out of Committee, and I will keep fighting for this legislation at every step until the President signs it into law.”

Currently, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (Trust Fund) collects more revenue from shippers than Congress has appropriated to the U.S. Army Corps (Corps) of Engineers to maintain harbors. Approximately $9.3 billion in already collected revenue sits idle in the U.S. Treasury, not being used for its intended purpose of investing in ports and harbors. At the same time, some ports and harbors of all sizes struggle to remain competitive in the global shipment of goods and services or remain open to meet the needs of the communities that depend on a vibrant maritime and commercial fishing industry. While shippers continue to pay into the Trust Fund for Congressionally approved maintenance activities, the Federal Government has not carried out many of them.

The bipartisan bill makes it easier for Congress to appropriate any funds collected in the Trust Fund for authorized harbor maintenance needs, including the existing $9.3 billion balance in the Trust Fund. The legislation enables the expenditure of approximately $34 billion over the next decade, which will allow the Corps to dredge all Federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths.

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