RAMP group seeks to stop diversion of funds from waterway maintenance.
The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) Fairness Coalition, also known as Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP), says it is pleased that the House of Representatives has acted on an Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill in early summer 2012.
The action, says Washington-based RAMP in a news release, will better enable Congress to conference a bill before the end of the fiscal year and, for the second year in a row, avoid what RAMP calls “a costly and inefficient continuing resolution.”
The coalition also states, however, that it “is disappointed that the House did not appropriate all of the dedicated tax revenues paid by users of America's navigation ship channels, leaving $650 million of collected taxes for uses other than those specified by law in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986.”
The RAMP statement continues, “We are encouraged that the bill includes $1 billion for projects eligible for reimbursement from the HMTF, a meaningful increase over last year's appropriation. Nevertheless, the Coalition will be working to increase that level in the upcoming conference committee to better reflect the resources that have been provided for these purposes by the taxpayers.”
The HMTF was established in 1986 to fund the operation and maintenance of ports and harbors and is funded by a harbor maintenance tax (HMT).
Collected funds are intended for use “by the Army Corps of Engineers for maintenance dredging, dredged material disposal areas, jetties, and breakwaters,” according to RAMP. Corps activity, however, has lagged behind revenues into the HMTF for several years, says RAMP, resulting in an HMTF surplus of about $5.65 billion at the end of fiscal year 2010.
“Enough HMT revenue is collected each year to meet all of the nation’s authorized harbor maintenance needs, but less than two-thirds of it is appropriated for harbor maintenance. Charging maritime commerce this tax while failing to provide the service for which it was established is grossly unfair,” RAMP contends.