WASHINGTON, April 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last week, the House of Representatives passed a Fiscal Year 2013 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 112). Unlike the past several years, this year's budget debate included some discussion of the longstanding problem of underfunded harbor maintenance. This recognition of the harbor maintenance issue by the House Budget Committee is a positive small step forward.
RAMP believes that enactment of H.R.104, the RAMP Act, or its Senate companion bill, S.412, the Harbor Maintenance Act, is essential to address this growing national problem.
The text of H. Con. Res. 112 does not include any specific language related to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). The Budget Committee report on this legislation includes the following text: "In addition, the budget acknowledges the importance of maintaining our ports and waterways to encourage commercial deep-draft navigation and economic competitiveness. In fiscal year 2012, a total of $898 million was appropriated from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund [HMTF], an increase of $109 million over the administration's request. However, there continues to be a large balance in the fund and outstanding harbor maintenance needs." The H. Con. Res. 112 report language does not provide any authority or direction to the House Appropriations Committee to increase annual funding levels for harbor maintenance.
Rep. Van Hollen offered a substitute amendment to H. Con. Res. 112 as an alternative budget resolution. It would have provided billions of more dollars annually for function 300 (Natural Resources and Environment, which funds Army Corps civil works programs such as harbor maintenance, as well as many other agencies' programs) than the House-passed budget resolution for FYs13-22, but it did not include any provisions dedicating any of that revenue to harbor maintenance. While the Van Hollen amendment's deficit neutral reserve fund for transportation included harbor maintenance among the reserve fund's several uses, it would not have required the House Appropriations Committee to spend all annual HMTF revenue on harbor maintenance. HMTF revenue is already built into the budget baseline. Because the reserve fund language requires deficit neutrality, any legislation making HMTF spending mandatory would have to have been offset with new revenues or reductions in other mandatory spending. Enacting Van Hollen's reserve fund provision would not have had any direct effect on H.R.104, the RAMP Act. Supporters of Van Hollen's amendment could legitimately argue that it would be easier for the House Appropriations Committee to fit a harbor maintenance spending increase into Van Hollen's function 300 amount, rather than the House-passed function 300 amount, but neither budget resolution alternative included requirement to do so.
The bottom line is that neither the House-passed nor the Van Hollen version of the budget resolution would fix the harbor maintenance problem, and no one contributing to or voting for either of them can legitimately claim that enacting either budget resolution would require that all annual HMTF revenue be spent for its authorized purposes. It is helpful that both the Chairman and Ranking member of the Budget Committee recognize that there is an economic need for increased harbor maintenance spending.
RAMP calls on the House Budget Committee leadership to support, not undermine, Rep. Boustany's efforts to offer his HMTF amendment (based on H.R.104) to H.R.7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, on the House floor.
SOURCE Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Fairness Coalition