AAPA: Obama’s 2017 Proposed Budget Lopsided for US Ports

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) expressed its dissatisfaction with President Obama’s fiscal 2017 proposed budget which would see less funds go into navigation, port security and emission in US ports.

The proposed budget would significantly reduce funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal navigation programs, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Port Security Grant program.

However, the budget reflects the funding increases and freight focus evident in the recently-enacted FAST Act that President Obama signed into law in December, which includes close to USD 2 billion in dedicated freight funding. Additionally, the budget calls for a new 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan that would significantly increase funding for TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery). If adopted, that would push TIGER funding from USD 500 million to USD 1.25 billion.

“To compete in global markets, America needs an efficient and modern 21st century freight transportation system. AAPA’s FreightKeepItMoving campaign highlights the importance of investing in both land and water connections to our nation’s port facilities,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO.

“We’re pleased to see and support the increased funding requested for surface transportation infrastructure, but deeply troubled by a grossly imbalanced budget that would cut funding for maintenance and modernization of federal navigation channels, the critical waterside infrastructure that connect our ports and nation to the world marketplace,” Nagle said.

USD 951 million for maintaining America’s deep-draft harbors

When Congress passed the overwhelmingly-supported and bipartisan Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) in 2014, it established annual incremental increases for Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) funded work. That would lead to full use of revenues in fiscal 2025, as highlighted in AAPA’s Hit the HMT Target campaign. According to AAPA, not only does the President’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget fail to hit the HMT target, it also fails to continue funding the HMT donor equity provisions that Congress initiated last year. AAPA said it strongly supports those provisions.

“By underfunding needed waterside investments, it breaks a vital link in the supply chain that disadvantages the entire freight-handling system, waterside and landside,” Nagle added.

The USD 951 million requested by the President for maintaining America’s deep-draft harbors is 22 percent less than the USD 1.22 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal 2016.

“While AAPA believes the Administration’s budget would lead to improved freight movement over our surface transportation system, all would be for naught if the budget’s proposed cuts to waterside infrastructure programs were adopted,” said Nagle.

“If we can’t get the goods efficiently and competitively into and out of our country through seaports and waterside navigation channels, American manufacturers won’t be able to receive the materials and/or components they need, and they as well as U.S. farmers, won’t be able to competitively export their products globally. In addition, U.S. retailers and consumers will suffer.”

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