Murray, Cantwell Unveil Legislation to Support American Ports

Yesterday, August 15th, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani, and Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe held a press conference at the Bell Harbor Conference Center rooftop deck to announce new legislation that will significantly strengthen American ports, including many in the Pacific Northwest.

The Harbor Maintenance Tax, a long-established tax on imports that funds the operation and maintenance of America’s large and small ports, is not being fully collected. Because of that, American ports, which drive job creation and anchor our export economy, can’t make the infrastructure investments they need to support American businesses. Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell are addressing this threat to America’s maritime economy with legislation to create a more equitable playing field for American ports.

Specifically, the Maritime Goods Movement Act for the 21st Century would:

– Repeal the Harbor Maintenance Tax and replace it with the Maritime Goods Movement User Fee, the proceeds of which would be fully available to Congress to provide for port operation and maintenance. This would double the amount of funds available for American ports, which will help our export economy thrive;

– Ensure that shippers cannot avoid the Maritime Goods Movement User Fee by using ports in Canada and Mexico;

– Set aside a portion of the user fee for low-use, remote, and subsistence harbors that are at a competitive disadvantage for federal funding;

– Create a competitive grant program using a percentage of the collected user fees to improve the U.S. intermodal transportation system so imported goods and goods for export can more efficiently reach their intended destinations;

– Pay for expanded infrastructure investments by closing loopholes that allow the largest oil and gas companies in America to receive billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies every year, even though they enjoy profits in excess of $100 billion annually.

“Senator Cantwell and I have worked with small and large ports here in Washington state, the business community, and labor leaders to write the Maritime Goods Movement Act – which will make desperately needed improvements to the laws that impact ports of all sizes and business large and small – exporters and importers,” Senator Murray said. “This legislation will change the Harbor Maintenance Tax to give shippers new incentives to move their goods through American ports – particularly those in the Pacific Northwest.”

I will continue to work with Senator Murray and my west coast colleagues on a solution that gives our ports relief and keeps us competitive,” said Senator Cantwell. “We know that Washington state goods and products are in high demand all over the world — from apples to airplanes to software. Fixing the H-M-T is about giving businesses and workers in our trade economy tools to succeed in a global marketplace. Because we know that if the playing field is level, Washington’s state ports and products will win out.”

More info

Press Release, August 16, 2013

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