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Nov.10, 2014

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE 15 By Mark Szakonyi U.S. SHIPPERS, TRANSPORTATION groups and members of Congress are intensifying pressure on congressional appropriators to produce legislation that would send more money collected via the Harbor Mainte- nance Tax back to ports as envisioned in landmark legislation enacted in June. That legislation was intended to use the HMT funds for port upgrades rather than being held back by Congress to improve the deficit as much of it was for years, denying needed funding for seaports. Fifty-eight U.S. House members urged the chairman and ranking members of their chamber's appropriations committee and subcommittee on energy and water to ensure their approved funding levels, and not lower Senate levels, make the final budget bill. The House already has passed legislation that would meet the $1.2 billion port-funding target for fiscal 2015, but the Senate bill is $91 million short. "We write to request that when you enter into negotiations with your Senate counter- parts to complete annual appropriations legislation (for fiscal 2015, which began on Oct. 1) you hold the line at a final FY15 har- bor maintenance funding level that meets the WRRDA 2014 target for that year, which has strong support in the House," the indus- try representatives wrote key appropriators. The letter was sent on Oct. 19 to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.; House committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water; and the committee's ranking member, Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. Major water resources legislation, signed into law by President Obama on June 10, set a schedule where U.S. ports would receive more HMT funding each year and receive all annually collected taxes by fiscal 2020. But it's up to congressional appropriators to make sure the plan set by Water Resources Reform Development Act is implemented. Approximately 400 shipper and trans- portation groups on Oct. 22 urged Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Bar- bara Mikulski, D-Md, and the committee's vice chairman, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., to increase harbor maintenance funding when they meet with their House counterparts. The letter noted that the House approved an amendment that set funding levels at WRRDA targets by a 281-137 vote. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the World Shipping Council were among the signees. "With these letters, we're reminding House and Senate members of the over- whelming support of organizations and individuals across the nation to adequately fund the harbor maintenance levels and pro- visions they approved in WRRDA," said Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities. Before passage of the bill, appropriators annually siphoned about half of the $1.8 bil- lion collected annually through the HMT, a 0.125 percent tax on the value of U.S. ocean- borne imports, to plug federal budget holes, denying needed funding to ports. The result was that many ports' maintenance dredging and jetty work were left underfunded. Because only about half of the nation's shipping channels are dredged to their federally authorized depths and widths, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports, ships sometimes can't enter or leave port fully loaded, raising costs. The landmark WRRDA bill intends to change that, under a formula where ports will receive 67 percent, or nearly $1.2 billion, of annually collected HMT dollars in fiscal 2015. The share rises to 69 percent in fiscal 2016, 71 percent in fiscal 2017, 74 percent in fiscal 2018, 77 percent in fiscal 2019, 80 per- cent in fiscal 2020, 83 percent in fiscal 2021, 87 percent in fiscal 2022, 91 percent in fiscal 2023, and 95 percent in fiscal 2024. JOC Contact Mark Szakonyi at and follow him on Twitter: @szakonyi_joc. FIGHTING FOR PORT FUNDING Industry steps up pressure on Congress to stick to funding promises it made in water resources law

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