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Mar.21, 2016

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 30 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE MARCH 21.2016 By Reynolds Hutchins U.S. PORTS ARE supposed to gain steadily more federal funding each year, but a strong U.S. dollar could stymie Congress's framework for providing more money for dredging and jetty maintenance. U.S. containerized imports are rising, but the value of that cargo is decreasing, potentially reducing the general level of money available for federal funding. Importers are paying less in federal taxes because they're spending less on their goods. The American Association of Port Authorities, the nation's largest port lobby, said it's looking for ways to provide more money to ports now that the Harbor Maintenance Tax, a 0.125 percent levy on the value of imports, is bringing in less. The coming shortfall highlights port backers' argument why all, and not just a share, of the collected Harbor Mainte - nance Trust Fund money must go toward ports, instead of being used to plug gaps in the general fund. Ports ultimately could get more fund- ing, but that depends on Congress keeping its word that it would shell out a larger share of collected taxes to ports each year until all funding goes to maritime projects in fiscal 2025. "What we're struggling with is the esti- mates for the HMT revenue were actually adjusted downward in 2017," Jim Walker, the AAPA's director of navigation policy and legislation, told The Journal of Commerce. "It's awkward." Since 2013, the revenue collected from the HMT has fallen year-over-year despite rising containerized imports. In fiscal 2014, PORTS PAY A PRICE FOR STRONG DOLLAR Although container imports are increasing, their value isn't, and that's putting less money into the HMTF "AAPA's focus is on getting full use."

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