Chair DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves Urge President Biden to Start Using Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Immediately to Maintain U.S. Ports and Harbors and Support American Jobs
DeFazio and Graves on full utilization of the HMTF: “This would directly benefit the countless businesses, industries, farmers, and workers whose livelihoods depend on coastal and inland harbors for the movement of goods and services”
Thanks to WRDA 2020, billions of dollars in unused funds have been unlocked for their intended purpose – maintaining U.S. ports and harbors
Washington, DC – House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) urged President Biden to fully utilize the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) in his upcoming budget request, a move that would make billions of dollars in already-collected fees available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to maintain U.S. ports and harbors, which create jobs and help drive the economy. In total, the country’s maritime transportation industry supports more than $4 trillion in commerce and employs more than 23 million people.
In their letter, DeFazio and Graves noted that while the HMTF remains underutilized—with approximately $10 billion sitting idle in the trust fund and an additional $1.6 billion in collections being deposited annually—the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, signed into law late last year— has given the President new tools to finally unlock these much-needed funds and make them available to communities across the country.
“By taking advantage of these increased spending limits in your FY 2022 Budget Request and releasing these funds, you can maximize the capability of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to meet existing Federal harbor maintenance obligations and have an immediate positive benefit on our Nation’s economy and critical infrastructure,” DeFazio and Graves wrote.
DeFazio and Graves continued: “Without raising any taxes, the Corps could spend significantly more funds to meet the growing maintenance dredging needs and ensure the continued competitiveness of our ports if we unlock the idle funds and begin the path towards full utilization of the HMTF, as provided for in WRDA 2020.”
The full letter can be found below and here.
February 11, 2021
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
In furtherance of our need to reinvest in our Nation’s infrastructure and to revitalize our Nation’s economy, we urge you, in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Request, to fully utilize already collected funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to operate and maintain our Nation’s ports and harbors.
Through enactment of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, Congress provided a new budget tool to increase Federal investment in U.S. ports and harbors, by being able to fully allocate HMTF funds for maintenance dredging activities outside discretionary budget limitations. This would directly benefit the countless businesses, industries, farmers, and workers whose livelihoods depend on coastal and inland harbors for the movement of goods and services. By taking advantage of these increased spending limits in your FY 2022 Budget Request and releasing these funds, you can maximize the capability of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to meet existing Federal harbor maintenance obligations and have an immediate positive benefit on our Nation’s economy and critical infrastructure.
The United States maritime transportation industry supports more than $4 trillion in commerce and creates employment for more than 23 million people. Oceangoing vessels carry more trade merchandise by tonnage than all other modes combined, accounting for 80 percent of the total volume for the world, and serve as a critical link for accessing foreign markets and competing in a global economy. Similarly, commercial ports can be the leading economic drivers of regional and local economies, supporting commercial fishing operations, U.S. Coast Guard facilities, and other critical maritime services that would not be possible without fully maintained ports and harbors. At every level, the efficiency and availability of our ports is critical to our economy, for the safety and well-being of our communities, and for job creation across the country.
Today, a balance of approximately $10 billion in already collected tax revenues sits idle in the HMTF in the U.S. Treasury, with an additional $1.6 billion in annual collections being deposited in the Trust Fund annually. Yet, while the Harbor Maintenance Tax is levied year after year directly on maritime shippers using coastal and inland ports, revenues collected for the statutorily intended purpose of maintaining those ports and harbors remain underutilized—failing the Federal commitment to ensure the viability of U.S. ports for tax-paying domestic shippers and importers.
Without raising any taxes, the Corps could spend significantly more funds to meet the growing maintenance dredging needs and ensure the continued competitiveness of our ports if we unlock the idle funds and begin the path towards full utilization of the HMTF, as provided for in WRDA 2020.
In recognition of our common desire to increase investment in our Nation’s economy and infrastructure, and to create and sustain U.S. jobs, we urge you to recognize the advantage of this new budget tool and to include in your FY 2022 Budget Request the full capability of the Corps to meet the backlog of critical maintenance dredging needs of all our U.S. ports and harbors. At a minimum, we request your FY 2022 Budget Request provide the estimated $2 billion in HMTF allocations called for in WRDA 2020 for the coming fiscal year.
Making these funds immediately available is an easy step to make commodities and goods produced in the U.S. more competitive in world markets, maintain the safety and reliability of our ports, and will restore the faith of those who pay into the HMTF.
Thank you for your consideration.
PETER A. DeFAZIO
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
 Sections 101, 102, and 104 of Division AA of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Pub. L. 116-260).
 See U.S. Coast Guard, Maratime Commerce Strategic Outlook, October 2018 (https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Prevention-Policy-CG-5P/Marine-Transportation-Systems-CG-5PW/Maritime-Commerce/).
 See United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (https://unctad.org/webflyer/review-maritime-transport-2018).
 See Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2021 (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-APP/pdf/BUDGET-2021-APP-1-21.pdf).
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