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Public Statements

Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KELLY of Pennsylvania. Madam Chair, my friend, Mr. Duffy from Wisconsin, and I have an amendment at the desk.

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Mr. KELLY of Pennsylvania. Madam Chair, the reason I'm here tonight is to talk about the efforts that are being used to divert Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund monies to purposes other than what Congress intended, and that is dredging and maintenance of our harbors.

I'm talking about fairness, and I'm talking about commerce. We've all known for years that we have a problem when funds are collected for an intended purpose, that sometimes they don't get used that way. So we have money in, but money does not come out for its intended use.

There are a number of reasons for this happening. But until we get more funds for their intended purpose, Mr. Duffy and I oppose expanding the authorities for the use of this funding.

This is a matter of fairness.

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has carried a surplus since 1997. At the end of fiscal year 2012, the trust fund had an estimated $7 billion surplus that was not spent on harbor maintenance. Yet our harbors are under-maintained.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that full channel dimensions at the Nation's busiest 59 ports are available less than 35 percent of the time. That's unacceptable. Just from an economic standpoint, it should be unacceptable to us.

Ships, especially those in my district and throughout the Great Lakes, are light-loading. When that happens, American productivity is lost. Light-loading--we can't even load the ship to their capacity because we haven't maintained our harbors. We haven't dredged our harbors. This is an affront to commerce. It goes back to the very beginning of what the Founding Fathers thought about commerce as so important, getting products from point A to point B.

We must ensure that the moneys intended for dredging are not siphoned off for other reasons. Our amendment will prohibit moneys from being used by the administration to expand the authorized uses of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund moneys.

I know this is something that the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Frelinghuysen) has supported in the past, and I appreciate his consideration.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. KELLY of Pennsylvania. Will the gentlewoman yield?

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Mr. KELLY of Pennsylvania. I think the whole purpose of this--and Mr. Duffy will have a chance to speak next--this money is collected for a specific reason. I had a conversation with Secretary LaHood talking about why can't we use the money that's been collected and set aside to be used. This is about commerce. This is about fairness. This is about growing our economy and being able to have access to the entire world. We're letting these harbors go unmaintained. We're not dredging them, and we're causing a huge problem in commerce. That's the problem. We can't get from point A to point B. We're lowering the efficiency of our businesses and their ability to get products out there. The whole purpose of this is to use the money that's collected for the intention for which it was collected. It's money that's going in, but not being used the right way, and I don't want to see it get diverted any other way, as we've seen happen already. We're already missing the boat, no pun intended. We're closing down these harbors, and we're not doing the right things by them.

I know my friend from Wisconsin (Mr. Duffy) wants to talk.

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