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AAPA calls for federal solution to ‘fix’ HMT

A letter sent Wednesday to congressional leaders states the plan “must provide full use” of the Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues and “address tax fairness.”

   The American Association of Port Authorities along with 100 U.S. ports and other organizations sent a letter Wednesday to congressional leaders urging them “to enact a comprehensive solution to fix the HMT (Harbor Maintenance Tax) for good.”
   The HMT is a 0.125% ad valorem tax levied on importers and domestic shippers using coastal and inland ports. The revenues are put into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), from which Congress appropriates monies to the Army Corps of Engineers for harbor maintenance dredging.
   Money from the HMTF, which has an accumulated balance in excess of $9 billion, has been used for reasons other than harbor maintenance, such as reducing the size of the federal deficit.   
   “The current system to maintain our nation’s ports … is broken,” the letter reads. “A comprehensive solution is needed and must provide both full use of the annual Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) revenues as well as address tax fairness.”
   The letter said AAPA developed a proposal to fix the HMT last year that calls for full spending of the prior year HMTF revenues “according to a framework that ports agreed would be fair and equitable.”
   “It makes maintenance the highest priority, provides protections to address small port and regional port needs, provides increasing equity to large HMT donors and acknowledges Congress’ priority to provide support to energy transfer ports,” the letter reads.
   In May, the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act was reported favorably by voice vote to the full House of Representatives by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill, introduced by committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., would provide a discretionary cap that would allow for the full utilization of the HMTF, which would be spent on an annual basis. The full income and accumulated balance would add up to $34 billion over the next decade, DeFazio (pictured above) said during the markup hearing.
   But Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., voiced opposition to the bill, saying, “Just to remove a discretionary cap is certainly not a vote that I want to cast and I would encourage my colleagues to think seriously before we do that.”
   Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La., supported the bill but echoed Meadows’ concerns about the budget cap.
   Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., both said inequities on how the funds are allocated should be addressed in the next Water Resources Development Act.
   “I ensure him and what I’ve said to the ports for years is let us get the funds and then we will come up with a fair apportionment in the Water Resources Development Act, which we will do later this year,” DeFazio said during the markup hearing.
   The Problem Solvers Caucus also recommended full expenditure of HMTF in its recently released “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure” report.
   “America’s ports need legislation that will finally fix the HMT for good,” Susan Monteverde, AAPA’s vice president of government relations, said in a statement. “Adopting a comprehensive HMT proposal into upcoming federal legislation would be good for our nation, good for our nation’s ports and is a top infrastructure priority for APPA.”