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Letter to the Leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Upton Leads Fight to Ensure Vital Funding for Harbor Dredging

Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) today joined Congresswoman Candice S. Miller (R-Harrison Township, Mich.) in leading the bipartisan effort to ensure that federal revenues derived for harbor maintenance dredging through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) are fully used for their intended purpose -- maintaining our ports, harbors, and waterways. Upton has been a leading supporter of seasonal dredging projects in southwest Michigan to ensure area harbors remain open to commercial traffic, which thousands of local jobs and countless businesses are dependent upon.

"Ensuring our harbors remain open and ready for business is essential to jobs and economic activity in southwest Michigan," said Upton. "With today's great fiscal challenges, it is simply unacceptable for the administration to continue denying our harbors these vital dredging dollars -- instead keeping these unused revenues "on the books' to offset unrelated federal spending. It's time for some honest bookkeeping and for the surplus Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues to be used for their intended purpose: enabling our harbors to remain active bastions of economic growth."

In recent years, proceeds collected from the HMT have significantly outpaced federal dollars allocated for vital dredging projects, resulting in a surplus in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) in excess of $6 billion. The President's own budget for FY 2012 estimates that the HMT will collect more than $1.5 billion in revenue, while only roughly half will actually be used for harbor and channel dredging funds. The remaining revenues will continue to accumulate, unused, in the HMTF.

In a letter to the leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Upton and others are asking that all proceeds collected from the HMT be used for purposes of dredging our nation's ports, harbors, and waterways, as was originally intended. Utilizing these already available, unused funds in the HMTF would mean more funding for harbor maintenance, but not require new or increased sources of revenue.

The full text of the letter to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is below:

Dear Chairmen Mica, Duncan, and Gibbs and Ranking Members Rahall, DeFazio, and Bishop:

As leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, you can imagine the public outrage that would develop if the fuel taxes we all pay did not get used to build and maintain roads and infrastructure as intended. The American people would feel cheated, and rightly so. The fuel tax is a user fee that we all contribute to in order to ensure we have safe and adequate roads over which to travel.

Unfortunately, the scenario above is happening right now in the world of maritime transportation. Currently, shippers pay a Harbor Maintenance Tax that is intended to go into a Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and in turn is intended to be used to ensure that our harbors are adequately dredged and maintained to keep our maritime commerce afloat. However, only about half of annual Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenue is spent for its authorized purposes because the Trust Fund is unprotected. Currently, the Administration chooses to use this multi-billion dollar surplus to balance out other deficits, so that balance really represents an IOU due to the amount of federal debt accumulated by other programs. The Administration's FY12 budget request indicates that it intends to allow federal agencies to expend the remainder of annual Trust Fund revenue on federal agency operating expenses that are currently being paid for out of the general fund of the Treasury.

By failing to spend the Trust Fund for its intended purpose the Administration has effectively abdicated its maintenance dredging responsibilities. This is to the detriment of both commercial and recreational harbors across the country. While the commercial harbors are critical to the movement of goods, the recreational harbors in America serve as economic engines from coast to coast, oftentimes located in small towns and seen as the focal points for the communities they serve. Even those harbors that don't pay the ad valorem Harbor Maintenance Tax heavily contribute to their communities through sales taxes, slip fees, and the economic impact boaters have on the shops, restaurants, and other businesses surrounding the harbors.

We request that the Committee take up this issue as soon as possible, and stand ready to assist in this matter. Harbors across the country are in great distress. A failure to act will result in the closure of recreational harbors across the country which will bring great harm to local economies that are already in peril, and the detriment caused to commercial commerce will seriously affect our economy as well.

Please protect the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by making certain this funding goes toward its intended purpose and providing direction on Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund expenditures to ensure the Trust Fund is used to properly maintain all of our nation's authorized waterways and harbors, both commercial and recreational.

We appreciate your time and attention to this critical matter.


Rep. Candice S. Miller
Rep. Fred Upton
Rep. Jeffrey M. Landry
Rep. Charles W. Boustany, Jr.
Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
Rep. Walter B. Jones
Rep. Ted Poe
Rep. Bill Huizenga
Rep. Ron Paul
Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers
Rep. Jo Bonner
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings
Rep. Pete Olson
Rep. Gregg Harper
Rep. Mike Kelly
Rep. David Wu
Rep. Michael G. Grimm
Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Rep. Dan Benishek
Rep. Michael K. Simpson
Rep. Kevin Brady
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings
Rep. Jerry F. Costello
Rep. John C. Carney, Jr.
Rep. Robert E. Latta
Rep. Dennis A. Cardoza
Rep. Blake Farenthold
Rep. William L. Owens
Rep. Thomas E. Petri

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