The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee favorably reported the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act with one lawmaker voicing opposition.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday favorably reported by voice vote three bills to the House of Representatives, including the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act.
H.R. 2440, introduced last week, would provide a discretionary cap adjustment that would allow for the full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (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 to be spent to maintain harbors of all sizes, Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said during the markup hearing.
“This has been an issue that has been before this committee,” he said. “This will be the third time and it’s in a slightly different form but it has passed out of the committee unanimously in two previous Congresses, but was removed by the Rules Committee from the Water Resources Development Act before consideration on the floor.”
The bill, however, did not pass unanimously Wednesday. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C, voiced opposition to the bill, saying that “the problem is the appropriators,” with whom he suggested making the issue a priority.
“Every vote in favor of this is actually increasing non-defense discretionary money, and in a time where we have a $22 trillion-plus deficit I find it just fiscally irresponsible to suggest that this is the way we should take this on,” Meadows (pictured above) said. “Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, when we look at this particular issue I think there are ways that even I am willing to try to help accomplish the intended purpose, but 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.”
DeFazio responded by saying the appropriators cannot touch the accumulated balance of over $9 billion.
Garret Graves, R-La., voiced support of the legislation, but also agreed with Meadows about the budgetary impacts.
“I think it’s the right legislation, the right policy to restore integrity, to do with the money what it’s intended to do,” Graves said. “[Meadows] is exactly right: We do need to pair this with efforts in the Appropriations Committee to ensure we’re not just blowing the budget caps here. If there are other government functions that need to be funded, we need to look and figure out how to exercise them with some discretion and truly prioritize, but I think that largely needs to be done in the venue of the Appropriations Committee.”
Both Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., and Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., said inequities on how the funds are allocated should be addressed in the next Water Resources Development Act. Lownethal said the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach collect nearly $380 million annually in harbor maintenance taxes — levied on importers and domestic shippers using coastal and inland ports as a 0.125% ad valorem tax on the value of imported cargo — but receive less than 1.5% of the funds.
“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.
The committee also favorably reported the DISASTER Act, Transparency in Federal Buildings Projects Acts of 2019 and approved 20 General Services Administration capital investment and leasing program resolutions.