Feds Sit On $5 billion while Port Expansion and Maintenance Needs Go Unmet

Port of Seattle (Image: Larry Ehl)

I interviewed Rep. Rick Larsen recently about the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax and its negative impact on NW ports (link to interview).  Yesterday John Mohr, Executive Director of the Port of Everett, testified before Congress about the issue.  This is from his prepared remarks:

“The U.S. Government has imposed the HMT, which unfortunately doesn’t help us at all, because Everett, Tacoma and Seattle ar natural deep-draft harbors.  However, it does hurt our competition with Canadian ports because they don’t have such a tax – a fact they advertise to customers.  The current HMT distorts the flow of trade and puts U.S. ports at a competitive advantage.

We would like to see the federal policy modified to ensure equal treatment of all U.S.-bound cargoes regardless of how they arrive in the U.S. For cargoes arriving at U.S. seaports, the HMT would remain the same.  For international cargoes arriving via a land border, a new account would be created for investments in cargo-specific infrastructure improvement projects.

The Port of Everett would also support the effort to make sure that all the funds collected through the HMT are spend on harbor maintenance.  If all the $1.3 billion dollars collected from taxing the value of cargo imported into the U.S. in 2010 was reinvested in harbor maintenance, an additional half-a-billion dollars would have been invested in U.S. ports.  This would increase efficiency, lower costs to U.S. manufacturers and support U.S. construction jobs.

As noted earlier, the federal government collects far more money in harbor maintenance taxes than it expends on harbor maintenance.  As a result, the HMT fund has a balance of more than $5 billion while important dredging needs go unmet.  The taxes collected for harbor maintenance should be spent on harbor maintenance.”

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