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Senator Rob Portman cosponsors Harbor Maintenance Act

Written by Nick Blenkey

senator rob portmanFEBRUARY 5, 2013 — U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has cosponsored the Harbor Maintenance Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) to help ensure that funds collected for maintaining and operating federal ports, harbors, and channels are fully used for their intended purposes.

The bipartisan legislation would require all funds raised by the Harbor Maintenance Tax be directed toward U.S. ports and harbors.

“Ohio’s many ports and harbors, including those in Cleveland, Toledo, and across the Great Lakes, are critical to ensuring robust commerce,” said Portman.  “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will ensure that the funds collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax are used responsibly and in a manner that supports our nation’s harbors and ports and allows them to grow the economy and create jobs.”

“We commend Senator Portman and his co-sponsors, and urge their colleagues to support this bill to help continue our nation’s economic recovery,” said William D. Friedman, President and CEO of the Port of Cleveland.  “The Great Lakes waterways provide vital connections for manufacturers, farmers and energy production, but are clogged because only half the user fees collected for harbor maintenance are used for their intended purpose.  As a result, companies, workers and our competitive position all suffer from insufficient dredging, while the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has a roughly $7 billion surplus.”

“For more than 200 years, the marine shipping industry has been an integral part of the Great Lakes economy.  Recent investments in the ports, terminals, vessel fleets and the infrastructure of the Seaway go to show that stakeholders are committed to the future of our system. In Toledo, more than 7000 jobs depend on our seaport,” said Paul Toth, President and CEO for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. “The full expenditure of the Harbor Maintenance Tax will ensure that the Port of Toledo and other American seaports will remain open for business as vibrant, secure and safe harbors for economic activity.”

Senator Portman was a co-sponsor of similar legislation in the 112th Congress.  In July, Portman ensured that the transportation bill signed into law by the President included a provision expressing the Sense of the Congress that the Administration should request and Congress should fully expend each year all of the revenues collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for the operation and maintenance of the nation’s federally maintained ports.  Senator Portman then followed-up on this legislative success by joining a bipartisan letter to OMB Director Jeffrey Zients asking the Administration to honor the aforementioned Sense of the Congress.

The Harbor Maintenance Act would help ensure that amounts deposited into the HMTF are used for their intended purpose by allowing Members of Congress to raise a point of order against any legislation that would prevent the total revenue collected in the HMTF for that fiscal year from being appropriated for its intended navigational infrastructure purposes.  Similar problems occurred with the Highway Trust Fund and the Airports and Airways Trust Fund, and Congress enacted legislation to more closely tie the trust fund expenditures and revenues.  This bill would do the same for harbors.

The legislation is supported by a wide variety of interests, including national vessel operators, cities, public ports, private terminal operators, pilot associations, dredging companies, shipbuilders, maritime labor unions, manufacturers, bulk cargo owners and shippers, and other companies and associations dependent on navigation channels.  In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has said that the bill would not have any budgetary issues.

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