The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider H.R. 2440, Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund bill on Monday October 28, 2019. The bill may be presented in the House under “suspension of the rules.”
“We strongly support the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for intended purpose,” said William P. Doyle, CEO and Executive Director of the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA). “This bipartisan bill makes it easier for Congress to appropriate any funds collected in the Trust Fund for authorized harbor maintenance needs, including the existing $9.3 billion balance in the Trust Fund. The legislation enables the expenditure of approximately $34 billion over the next decade, which will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to dredge all Federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths,” he concluded.
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 H.R. 2396 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.
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 currently appropriates funds to the Corps for harbor maintenance dredging.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Trust Fund 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 the Trust Fund are only estimated to total $19.4 billion over the same decade, resulting in the Trust Fund balance reaching $14.4 billion in fiscal year 2029.
Suspension of the rules is a procedure that the House of Representatives often uses on the floor to act expeditiously on legislation. When a bill or some other matter is considered “under suspension,” floor debate is limited to 40 minutes, all floor amendments are prohibited, and a two-thirds vote is required for final passage.