Politico: “Murray, Cantwell: Cut oil and gas tax breaks to fund ports”

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 15, 2013

Thanks to ENS Resources for sending this over:


Murray, Cantwell: Cut oil and gas tax breaks to fund ports

By Adam Snider- Politico

8/15/13 1:44 PM EDT

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell want to hike spending on the nation’s ports by ending the tax benefits for major oil and gas companies, part of a multi-pronged approach they’re announcing Thursday.

Legislation the two Washington state Democrats are planning would also replace the current harbor maintenance tax with a “Maritime Goods Movement User Fee” and end the years of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund money being diverted to other purposes.

It’s an ambitious proposal to address what many in Congress call a chronic underinvestment in U.S. ports.

The new user fee would target shippers who avoid the current harbor tax by shipping to ports in Canada and Mexico and then moving goods into the United States on rail or trucks. It would “double the amount of funds available for American ports, which will help our export economy thrive,” according to a one-page summary of the bill from Murray’s office.

The current tax system is unfair and obsolete, she says.

“That means fewer cargo containers coming into our ports. It means less work for longshoremen and pilots. And it means we can’t make investments in infrastructure that our ports need to be state-of-the-art and competitive,” she said in prepared remarks for a news conference Thursday in Seattle. “If that’s not a perfect example of an outdated law, I don’t know what is.”

On top of that lost revenue from shipments, a significant chunk of yearly receipts from the harbor tax is spent on other purposes. Port groups and members of Congress from both parties have been trying to ensure the entire amount is used on ports, including lawmakers like Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), who don’t normally agree on many issues.

The Murray-Cantwell bill would also set up a competitive grant program for intermodal connections at ports. Murray was the champion of the TIGER grant program, created in the 2009 stimulus, which has poured millions into port, road, rail and other projects around the country.

The senators’ proposal comes as the House Transportation Committee prepares to roll out its version of a water resources bill ahead of action next month. The Senate has already passed a bill that includes language designed to address the diversion issue.

Murray’s and Cantwell’s bill won’t be formally introduced until September, when lawmakers return from the recess.