New Legislation to Enhance Competitiveness of U.S. Ports

Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Representative Dave Reichert yesterday introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reform the outdated Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Reform Act of 2017 would make sure all of the money collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) each year is returned directly to ports in order to improve infrastructure and keep ports competitive.

Currently, the HMT is not collected or spent in a way that ensures ports can continue to compete on a level playing field.

Some ports, including the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, receive just pennies for each dollar contributed to the HMTF from cargo unloaded at their ports. As so-called “donor ports,” they don’t receive the necessary investments they need to remain competitive.

“For more than a decade, a number of U.S. ports have been operating at a competitive disadvantage, which is a drag on our economy and on thousands of good-paying jobs,” said Murray“The bipartisan bill we are introducing would be a critical step toward restoring investments in our ports, jobs, and economic development in Washington state and around the country.”

“As one of the most trade-dependent states, strong ports are critical to Washington’s local economy,” added Reichert. “For too long, our ports have been put at a disadvantage – contributing much more than their fair share to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and facing the loss of cargo to foreign ports because of the Harbor Maintenance Tax. By increasing funding to  these ports including for rebates to shippers, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Reform Act will help level the playing field supporting jobs and communities in Washington.” 

The lawmakers said in their statement that the legislation introduced yesterday would address these inequities, enhance economic competitiveness and support jobs in Washington state and around the U.S. by ensuring donor ports can access funding for port infrastructure and rebates to shippers transporting cargo through their ports rather than routing cargo through Canada or Mexico to the U.S.

 

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