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U.S. House Votes To Boost Harbor Maintenance Spending By $57M

The Port of Houston and Houston Ship Channel would be major beneficiaries.

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Shippers pay a federal tax based on the goods they ship through U.S. ports. It’s called the Harbor Maintenance Tax, but much of the revenue collected often winds up spent elsewhere. The result has been a chronic shortage of funds for work by the Army Corps of Engineers, including dredging the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel.

Congressman Gene Green’s East Harris County district includes the Port of Houston. “The Port of Houston generates about $125 million a year [via the Harbor Maintenance Tax],” Green says, “and that goes into the federal coffers, and we get back $31 million.”

The House has just passed a bill that may relieve the situation. It would earmark an extra $57 million from the Harbor Maintenance Tax to be spent on harbor maintenance.

“So that means we’ll not only be able to have money for not only our maintenance dredging we have to do all the time at the port,” Green says, “but also for the growth that we need, because we also have to dig the port down so we can handle the new ships coming through the Panama Canal.”

The measure passed as an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Green is concerned about its ultimate prospects. Congressional budget fights regularly stall appropriations until well into the new fiscal year. Amendments often wind up stripped out when House and Senate negotiators try to reach a final accord.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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