On October 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a recorded vote the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), 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.”
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 appropriates funds to the Corps for harbor maintenance dredging.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), HMTF will collect an additional $24.5 billion in new revenues (including interest) over the next decade—on top of the estimated $9.3 billion in previously collected but unspent revenues. Yet, according to CBO, federal appropriations from HMTF are only estimated to total $19.4 billion over the same decade, resulting a HMTF balance reaching $14.4 billion in fiscal year 2029.
In April 2019, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure 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 head to U.S. Senate for consideration.