Questions Raised Over Reduction in HMT Funding
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the recognized and authoritative voice of the seaport industry, has noted some positive aspects but mostly disappointment over the funding levels and programmatic changes in federal port-related programs that were proposed yesterday in President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget.
“International trade now accounts for fully 30 percent of the U.S. economy,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO. “To compete in global markets, America needs an efficient and modern freight transportation infrastructure system, including seaports and the land and water connections into and out of port facilities.”
“We’re pleased to see and support the increased funding requested for surface transportation infrastructure, but deeply troubled by the proposed cuts to maintenance and modernization of federal navigation channels, the critical waterside infrastructure that connect our ports and nation to the world marketplace,” he added.
AAPA noted the proposed budget would reduce the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ funding from the $2.33 billion appropriated last year to the $1.95 billion budget requested for fiscal 2016.
With the President’s Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT)-related budget request remaining unchanged from last year, the HMT funding targets and formulas for equitable distribution established in the overwhelmingly-supported, bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 were far from met.
WRRDA set a funding target for fiscal 2016 of $1.32 billion. The $915 million requested by the President equates to only 47 percent of the estimated calendar year 2015 HMT revenue of $1.93 billion. Additionally, the President’s request is 16 percent less than the $1.1 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal 2015.
The President’s budget request for the Corps’ coastal navigation construction program also dropped for fiscal 2016, from $97 million to $81 million. If enacted, it would decline by 16 percent to its lowest level in more than 10 years.
”The Corps of Engineers’ budget proposal falls well short of the waterside maintenance and modernization needs of this country,” Mr. Nagle remarked. “Our nation is at a critical point in maintaining our international competitiveness, and implementation of the FY2016 budget request would result in trade-related infrastructure losing further ground at a time when we are already behind many of our competitors.”
“As the Administration and Congress grapple with the multiple goals of reducing the nation’s debt while growing jobs and the economy, federal investments in ports and their connecting infrastructure on both the land and waterside continue to be an essential, effective utilization of limited resources, paying dividends through increased trade, jobs, enhanced international competitiveness, and over $200 billion a year in tax revenues,” concluded Mr. Nagle.