News Releases

Senator Murray has long fought for the proposed changes to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) and Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) in this year’s Water Development Resources Act (WRDA), which passed the House of Representatives today

New bill includes proposals Senator Murray has championed that would increase funding to ports in Washington state and across the country

ICYMI: Senator Murray, Senate Democrats Push to Equitably Fund U.S. Ports – MORE HERE

Senator Murray: “This bill takes critical steps to secure the long-term financial outlook of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, among others, keep jobs in Washington state, and fix this broken system” 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today applauded the U.S. House of Representatives passing the House-Senate conference agreement on the Water Development Resources Act (WRDA) 2020, which includes provisions Senator Murray has long fought for to reform the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and to more equitably distribute money from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for maintenance projects at America’s ports. The bill will now move to the U.S. Senate for a vote.

“For too long, the existing system has forced Washington state ports to operate at a competitive disadvantage, stifling our state’s potential for economic growth and threatening thousands of good paying jobs” Senator Murray said. “This bill takes critical steps to secure the long-term financial outlook of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, among others, keep jobs in Washington state, and fix this broken system. As a champion for our ports I’m glad to see it pass the House and I look forward to voting in favor of it in the Senate.”

If signed into law, the provisions of the WRDA bill relating to the HMTF would significantly increase investment in ports in Washington state and across the country, which in turn will support American jobs and help U.S. ports maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly global maritime economy. The legislation would incorporate long sought after formula changes to distributions from the HMTF and build on a provision included in the CARES Act that allowed all of the money collected through the HMT each year to be returned directly to ports to improve infrastructure and keep ports competitive.

Senator Murray successfully pushed to include language in the WRDA legislation to more equitably distribute funding to ports across the country by setting aside minimum percentages of annual HMTF allocations for donor and energy ports, Great Lakes ports, and small harbors. This means that ports across the country, including the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, would receive an increased, fairer share of annual maintenance money. Currently, imports through large ports like Tacoma and Seattle generate over 50% of the national HMT revenues, yet these ports receive only 3% in return because their naturally deep harbors require minimal maintenance dredging, the primary purpose for which HMT funds are used. To further address this, Senator Murray also successfully worked to include a rebate program that would benefit ports in Washington state by allowing U.S. ports to issue rebates to shippers for using their services, mitigating the current incentive for shippers to divert cargo to Canadian ports, which do not assess a harbor maintenance tax.

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