The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee is considering including the RAMP Act language in its transportation authorization bill that will be marked up by the T&I Committee on February 2nd and will be considered by the full house later that month.
Please contact Representatives before February 2 to include the RAMP language in the transportation authorization bill
H.R.104, the RAMP Act, includes a point of order to end decades of Congressional budgeting that diverted much of the annual Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) payments by maritime commerce away from being spent on the harbor maintenance activities for which these taxes were paid. In FY11 alone, approximately $700M (almost half of the collected HMT revenues) was diverted.
- A recent study of the economic impact of reduced maintenance dredging of the Mississippi River shows that trying to be “penny wise” by not spending tens of millions of dollars annually required to fully maintain that river’s navigation channels (and which maritime commerce has already paid) is “pound foolish” because it is estimated that it will cost the U.S. economy several billions of dollars annually and reduce federal tax revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars.
- Extrapolating this study nationwide, the annual diversion of hundreds of millions in HMT revenues and the resulting degradation of the nation’s harbor navigation channels may be costing the nation tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity (such as exports) and reducing federal taxes by far more than would be spent on such harbor maintenance activities.
The House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier is resisting allowing the RAMP Act language to remain in the transportation authorization bill when that bill goes to the full House of Representatives. They are reflexively following a traditional Rules Committee position regarding points of order that does not consider the economic importance of the RAMP Act language to the nation.
- Several House Rules Committee members have cosponsored H.R.104 and support spending all annual HMT revenues on harbor maintenance, including Pete Sessions of Texas (the next senior Republican after Dreier), Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Louise Slaughter of New York (Ranking Committee Democrat).
Additional rebuttal talking points:
If someone asks why Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund appropriations should be protected with a point of order when the House eliminated the Highway Trust Fund point of order in 2011:
- The two points of order are very different. The point of order that was eliminated tied annual Highway Trust Fund appropriations to fixed spending levels that were not tied to annual trust fund revenues. This eventually causes budget problems as trust fund revenues failed to meet projections, so the point of order was eliminated.
- The RAMP Act point of order ties annual Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund appropriations to annual trust fund revenues, which eliminates the problem experienced with the Highway Trust Fund. The RAMP Act point of order is modeled after the Airport and Airways Trust Fund point of order, which remains current law.
- Highway Trust Fund appropriations have been spending all annual trust fund revenues for more than a dozen years since that point of order was initially enacted. Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund appropriations have been significantly less than annual trust fund revenues for more than 20 years. The RAMP Act point of order is needed to force the appropriations process to put into practice what has become the practice for the Highway Trust Fund and the Airport and Airways Trust Fund.