The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed by a recorded vote the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) Act, H.R. 2440. The vote was 296 in favor and 109 opposed. The voting required a two-thirds super majority of the House in order to pass under “suspension of the rules.”
“We’re very pleased with the outcome today in the House for the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund,” said William P. Doyle, Chief Executive Officer of Dredging Contractors of America. “Where the government collects taxes from taxpayers, and that tax is codified into federal law to be used for a specific purpose, then the tax must be used for that specific purpose. It’s very simple. The Harbor Maintenance Tax receipts are collected from shippers and are to be used for harbor maintenance dredging.”
In 1986, Congress enacted the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) to recover the operation and maintenance dredging costs for commercial ports from maritime shippers. The HMT 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 the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund within the U.S. Treasury from which Congress currently appropriates funds to the Corps for harbor maintenance dredging. Unfortunately, what is collected and what is spent on harbor maintenance is not the same, according to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
In April 2019, Chair of the House T&I Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, which would unlock billions in already collected fees to maintain our nation’s Federal ports and harbors.
The bill will now head to U.S. Senate for consideration.