Annual Review & Outlook 2013: Helen Delich Bentley & Associates

Helen Delich BentleyHope that 2013 will result in strengthening the resolution of the use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund probably will be dashed early in the 113th Congress. That sense of Congress, enacted as part of the 112th Congress highway bill, only suggests that all of the monies collected via this tax should be devoted to deepening the nation’s channels leading into its seaports. There are 360 ports along the nation’s waterways.

That resolution in the 112th Congress was the result of extensive lobbying by the Realize America's Maritime Promise Coalition and the leadership of Reps. Charles Boustany, R-La., and Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio. Actually, the full membership of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired then by John Mica, R-Fla., supported the effort. Likewise, the 112th Senate side always was in tune with the concept. Despite efforts to mandate the expenditure of the entire HMTF to relieve the sorely needed dredging of ports, the final result was the resolution only suggesting it be done.

From what I have been able to ascertain, it will be almost impossible to improve on that suggestion in the upcoming Congress because of the fiscal cliff.

Rep. Mica, who chaired the T&I committee so ably over the past three Congresses, will be replaced by Rep. Bill Schuster, R-Pa., whose father also had served in that position when he was in Congress.

Barry Holliday, who heads the RAMP Coalition, says, “We certainly are going to try.”

Mixed in with the RAMP effort is the introduction on the Senate side by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., of their bipartisan American Waterways Bill, which calls for vast improvements to the nation’s lock systems on the rivers and canals as well as improving inland ports. Nobody disagrees with the need along the inland waterways, dams and locks.

Their argument that hundreds of trailer trucks will be removed from the highways by improved waterways certainly is valid.

Efforts are still being considered to include the HMT strengthening in the proposed Water Resources and Development bill for 2013 (there has been no WRDA since 2007) by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Environmental Committee. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also is considering legislation that would help.

All of the above is why the RAMP Coalition will remain active and pushing, Holliday says.

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