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house Bill H.R. 2440

Should Idle Harbor Maintenance Funds Be Used to Maintain U.S. Harbors?

Argument in favor

Money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) is meant to be used for harbor maintenance, but isn’t being used for this purpose. Over $9 billion are sitting idle in the HMTF; meanwhile, harbors across the country are poorly maintained and deteriorating. This bill would allow those funds to be finally put to their intended use by maintaining America’s harbors.

jimK's Opinion
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10/29/2019
If the funds are idle and not needed for currently planned projects, why shouldn’t they contribute to harbor maintenance? The alternative would be to return the funds to the Treasury instead. I see no reason why either of these options should be objectionable.
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Marc's Opinion
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10/29/2019
I feel like this is a trick question. Yes... funds for harbor maintenance should be used for harbor maintenance. And funds for the military should be used for the military and not for a wall. And money for schools should be used for education. Am I missing something???
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Ken's Opinion
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10/29/2019
So let me get this straight... ship captains and port users pay fees intended for harbor maintenance which are not, in fact, spent on harbor maintenance because of an arbitrary cap on spending which causes the maintenance fund to grow faster than it is used? Cripes, just spend the harbor maintenance money on maintaining harbors already. If opponents of this are really worried about overspending due to the arbitrary limits being lifted, maybe find a compromise like defining a formula that prioritizes critical maintenance such as flood control, dredging and channel markers, and simply divide the current fund content up based on that to set new individual port spending limits so it’s impossible to overdraw the fund.
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Argument opposed

This bill is intentionally deceptive about its actual costs, which will in actuality far exceed the $0 CBO score. Not knowing this bill’s real cost, Congress shouldn’t enact it. Additionally, harbors shouldn’t rely on federal funds for maintenance and repair — instead they should assess fees on shippers to cover their maintenance and repair costs.

Gregg 's Opinion
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10/29/2019
More waste! Balance the budget and build the wall!
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RGlbk's Opinion
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10/29/2019
Typical liberal democraps spending taxpayer dollars for the sake of just spending! Vote the democrap losers out!
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John's Opinion
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10/29/2019
By the reports given in this the ports need 20 billion and there is only 9 billion in the fund. I really think what we need is to bid these jobs out on the private market. I own 0 dredge equipment but I fill like for 9 billion I could buy all new equipment and hire help and get all ports up to code and keep them that way over the next decade with the small exception that If we get hit by hurricane after hurricane
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Budget
  • The house Passed October 28th, 2019
    Roll Call Vote 296 Yea / 109 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on the Budget
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Water Resources and Environment
    IntroducedMay 1st, 2019

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What is House Bill H.R. 2440?

This bill — the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act — would increase budget caps to allow funds sitting idle in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to be used in the operation and maintenance commercial harbors of the United States. 

This bill would make certain amounts in the BBEDCA available, without appropriation, to pay: 

  • 100% of the eligible operations and maintenance costs of specified portions of the Saint Lawrence Seaway (a system of locks, canals, and channels in Canada and the United States that permits oceangoing vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes); and
  • Up to 100% of the eligible operations and maintenance costs assigned to commercial navigation of all U.S. harbors and inland harbors.

The discretionary spending adjustment in a given fiscal year may not exceed the amount within the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund on the last day of the fiscal year two years prior to the current fiscal year. The current caps on BBEDCA discretionary funding expire at the end of 2021.

Impact

U.S. harbors; maintenance of U.S. harbors; Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF); use of HMTF funds for maintenance of U.S. harbors.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2440

$0.00
The CBO estimates that this bill wouldn’t cost anything to implement. As to its overall budgetary impact, because the CBO doesn’t have a basis for predicting the total budget authority that will be provided in future appropriation acts, it doesn’t have a basis for predicting this bill’s total budgetary impact.

More Information

In-DepthHouse Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced this bill to unlock billions in already collected fees to maintain federal ports and harbors

“As someone who represents a coastal district, I’ve heard from countless fishermen, ship, tug and barge operators about the critical need for safe and well-maintained ports and harbors that allow them to do their jobs and keep our economy moving. And I agree. The Federal government should be using the fees it collects at our ports for their intended purpose -- harbor maintenance.  By merely spending what is already being collected we can ensure our Nation’s ports and harbors remain open for business and can continue to sustain our local, regional, and national economies. Ultimately it is taxpayers and consumers who pay the cost of the HMT, as a pass through on the price of goods shipped through ports. However, when harbors are inefficiently dredged and maintained it leads to delays and increased prices. So, taxpayers are paying for a service that is not being done, and as a result, have to pay MORE for the goods they buy because of the lack of maintenance. It’s time Congress fully funds the operation and maintenance of our commercial harbors, including critical jetty and breakwater work. I urge my colleagues to support this critical, bipartisan legislation.”

In remarks at this bill’s committee markup, Rep. DeFazio argued that consumers and taxpayers pay the cost of poor harbor maintenance: 

“Ultimately it is taxpayers and consumers who pay the cost of the Harbor Maintenance Tax, as a pass through on the price of goods shipped through ports. However, when harbors are inefficiently dredged and maintained it leads to delays and increased prices,” he said. “So, taxpayers are paying for a service that is not being done, and as a result, have to pay more for the goods they buy because of the lack of maintenance. [That’s why] it’s time Congress fully funds the operation and maintenance of our commercial harbors, including critical jetty and breakwater work.”

Original cosponsor Mike Kelly (R-PA) adds

“Our nation’s ports and harbors, like the Port of Erie, are supposed to receive funding for dredging and other maintenance from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.  Unfortunately, a significant portion of the revenue dedicated in the fund is not being used for that purpose. This has resulted in the deterioration of ports across our nation, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. Erie and our nation as a whole have felt the negative impact of neglecting our ports. I am a proud sponsor of this bill, which will ensure that America’s ports and harbors are once again fully maintained for both commercial and recreational activities. American businesses need us to properly maintain our ports so they can stay competitive on the global stage and create more jobs for American workers. Let’s meet the needs of the 21st century economy by passing this legislation.”

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson says that state departments of transportation “have long supported full use of HMTF money to address the delayed, deferred, and desperately needed harbor infrastructure.” He adds, “Not addressing these needs further compromise our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTU) opposes this bill, which it derides as a “gimmick” that’s intentionally deceptive about its real budgetary impact:

“The legislation would exclude harbor maintenance funding from discretionary spending limits, creating a significant loophole through which to drive higher spending. CBO published a cost estimate of the bill which concluded that it would have zero impact on budgetary outlays or the deficit. This defies common-sense assumptions about the spending that would occur if the bill is enacted… After running into a scoring hurdle to their efforts to boost spending through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the sponsors of this legislation drafted a new bill to better game the system. CBO’s score gave them the result they hoped for: a zero score despite the bill facilitating billions in new spending.  Unless Congress and the CBO work to fix this problem, it could lead to the creation of new and even bigger loopholes to hide the deficit impact of its fiscal policy decisions.”

This legislation passed the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by a voice vote and was discharged by the Committee on the Budget. It has 21 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 12 Republicans and nine Democrats. 

The American Soybean Association, National Grain and Feed Association, and Dredging Contractors of America support this bill. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTU) opposes it.


Of NoteCongress established the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) in 1981. This tax seeks to recover the operation and maintenance dredging costs for federally-authorized ports from maritime shippers, and is directly levied on importers and domestic shippers using coastal or inland ports as a 0.125% ad valorem tax on the value of imported cargo (e.g., $1.25 per $1,000 value). It’s typically passed on to taxpayers as part of the purchase price for imported goods and services. 

HMT revenue is deposited into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). Over the past 10 years, deposits into the HMTF from tax revenues and interest credited to the fund averaged $1.5 billion annually. Amounts appropriated from the fund averaged $1 billion annually. Current law authorizes the appropriation of whatever amounts are necessary from the fund. The HMTF currently has a $9 billion unappropriated balance. Consequently, although shippers continue paying into the Trust Fund for maintenance activities, the federal government hasn’t carried out these activities.

The Army Corps of Engineers reports that navigation channels in the 59 busiest ports in the U.S. are available less than 35% of the time, and the conditions at midsize and emerging harbors are far worse. In 2016, the Corps estimated the total cost to dredge and maintain authorized widths and depths of all federal navigation projects would be $20.5 billion over the next decade (in 2019 dollars). This estimate includes $11.5 billion to achieve authorized dimensions in the next five years (at $2.3 billion annually) and $9 billion to achieve authorized dimensions for an additional five years (at $1.8 billion annually). The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates U.S. ports and harbors will also need an additional $15.8 billion investment between now and 2020 just to meet the demands of larger and heavier ships that will use the Panama Canal.

By enabling the expenditure of approximately $34 billion over the next decade, this legislation would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to dredge all federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths over the next decade.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / eAlisa)

AKA

Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act

Official Title

To provide for the use of funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the purposes for which the funds were collected and to ensure that funds credited to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are used to support navigation, and for other purposes.

    If the funds are idle and not needed for currently planned projects, why shouldn’t they contribute to harbor maintenance? The alternative would be to return the funds to the Treasury instead. I see no reason why either of these options should be objectionable.
    Like (46)
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    I feel like this is a trick question. Yes... funds for harbor maintenance should be used for harbor maintenance. And funds for the military should be used for the military and not for a wall. And money for schools should be used for education. Am I missing something???
    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
    So let me get this straight... ship captains and port users pay fees intended for harbor maintenance which are not, in fact, spent on harbor maintenance because of an arbitrary cap on spending which causes the maintenance fund to grow faster than it is used? Cripes, just spend the harbor maintenance money on maintaining harbors already. If opponents of this are really worried about overspending due to the arbitrary limits being lifted, maybe find a compromise like defining a formula that prioritizes critical maintenance such as flood control, dredging and channel markers, and simply divide the current fund content up based on that to set new individual port spending limits so it’s impossible to overdraw the fund.
    Like (9)
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    Umm... the answer is in the question. Yes.
    Like (7)
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    If there are idle funds, then they should be used to maintain the harbors.
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    The funds were approved for harbor repair and update, use them for that purpose only now.
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    More waste! Balance the budget and build the wall!
    Like (4)
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    By the reports given in this the ports need 20 billion and there is only 9 billion in the fund. I really think what we need is to bid these jobs out on the private market. I own 0 dredge equipment but I fill like for 9 billion I could buy all new equipment and hire help and get all ports up to code and keep them that way over the next decade with the small exception that If we get hit by hurricane after hurricane
    Like (3)
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    Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act. The name seems to say it all. I would guess (having run aground several time during my sailing days) that this would ve a great place to spent the fund on dredging those harbors that silt in the quickest. There is nothing worse than tax monies received and not used. So use the Fund
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    Typical liberal democraps spending taxpayer dollars for the sake of just spending! Vote the democrap losers out!
    Like (3)
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    Representatives, Strongly Support H. R. 2440, the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act Incredibly, harbors across the country are deteriorating while the Harbor Fees collected amounting to something over some $9 Billion were earmarked and to be made available for harbor maintenance. This bill would allow those funds to be finally put to their intended use by maintaining America’s harbors. Further we should be informed why the harbors, ports, seaways, etc. have been neglected for so long? Has there been corrupt intent or merely administrative neglect?
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    We expect coastal states to be sympathetic to our needs concerning highways or repairs after tornado destruction. Should we not care for their needs?
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    Yes
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    Use the money intended for upkeep of infrastructure for keeping up that infrastructure.
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    Uh, duh? Of course, if they are not already designated for a specific purpose, why not? Like jimK said! I see my Countable friends are keeping diligent to our cause. I may not be able to participate much, but I do check up on you all as often as I can. Keep up the good work, my friends! 🙏🏻👍🏻❤️
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    Yea
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    Why vote. Waste of time. Impeachment now.
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    The Anchorage Alaska Harbor is in a very dangerous state of disrepair. This is the main source of goods coming to Alaska
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    Duh
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    It only makes sense to use it where it is needed the worst.
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