Upton Votes to Support Great Lakes Jobs, Harbor Maintenance
Bipartisan agreement includes a number of provisions to ensure more adequate funding for Lake Michigan harbors
Nearly one-third of America’s gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from international trade and 99 percent of that trade passes through the nation’s ports. Today, by a nearly unanimous vote of 412 to 4, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan, bicameral agreement – the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 – to maintain and modernize the nation’s water transportation infrastructure. The comprehensive legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its mission to develop, maintain, and support the infrastructure of our nation’s ports and waterways as well as support environmental restoration and flood protection efforts. Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph – a longtime advocate for Lake Michigan harbors – praised the bill as a major victory for the Great Lakes and the thousands of workers whose jobs depend upon them.
WRRDA requires that federal revenues collected for harbor maintenance and operations through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) are fully used for their intended purpose. Without the passage of WRDDA, roughly half of those dollars would continue to go unspent, creating a HMTF surplus that is used instead as a budgetary gimmick to offset other federal spending.
The bill also includes language authored by Michigan Reps. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland and cosponsored by Upton that designates the entire Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS) as a single, unified system for budgetary purposes. Rather than forcing Great Lakes harbors to compete for funding like coastal ports, this important provision recognizes the economic benefits of their interdependence and will help ensure consistent future funding.
“This important designation will finally allow our local harbors to present a unified front when competing for vital funding and resources,” Upton said.