Ensure that Funds Collected by the Harbor Maintenance Tax are Fully Utilized
- The Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) were established in 1986 to fund the operation and maintenance of Federal ports and harbors. The HMT is charged against the value of imports and domestic cargo arriving at U.S. ports that have federally-maintained harbors and channels and deposited into the HMTF. Appropriations from the HMTF are primarily used for maintenance dredging, dredged material disposal areas, jetties, and breakwaters. Since 2002, there has been a growing gap between the annual amount of HMT collected and the annual amount of appropriations from the HMTF. The cumulative HMTF surplus exceeded $5 billion in FY08 and grows each year.
- Lack of Dredging Blocks Harbor Navigation Channels. Due to inadequate funding, harbor navigation channels are not being fully dredged, so sediment build-up is decreasing the availability of authorized channel depth and width each year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently reported that almost 30 percent of commercial vessel calls at U.S. ports are constrained due to inadequate channel depths. Inadequately maintained harbors are becoming like blocked arteries, threatening to choke off the lifeblood of our economy.
- Funds Are Already Collected, They Are Just Not Being Put to Use. Enough HMT is collected each year to meet all of the nation's authorized harbor maintenance needs, but only a little more than half of it is appropriated for harbor maintenance.
- Return "Trust" to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Congress should enact legislation setting the obligation limitation equal to projected revenues each year in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Such a budget mechanism would guarantee that the Nation's ports and harbor users see the taxes they pay annually invested in their intended purpose - operation and maintenance of navigation projects.
- Precedent Exists. Congress created such a budget mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund in TEA-21 and the Airports and Airways Trust Fund in AIR-21