Obama budget cuts port funding by $269M

Obama budget cuts port funding by $269M

Port advocates are unhappy with a $269 million funding cut that is included in President Obama's proposed budget for 2017. 

The president's $4.1 trillion budget for fiscal 2017 calls for spending $320 billion over the next ten years to develop a "clean transportation" system, but the AAPA said Tuesday that the proposal would cut federal funding for ports from $1.22 billion to $951 million. 

American Association of Port Authorities President Kurt Nagle said the budget cut would negatively impact programs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency that are designed to boost port productivity and security. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"International trade now accounts for fully 30 percent of the U.S. economy,” Nagle said in a statement. “To compete in global markets, America needs an efficient and modern 21st century freight transportation system. 

“It’d be a grievous ‘miss’ if this budget is adopted,” Nagle continued. “By underfunding needed waterside investments, it breaks a vital link in the supply chain that disadvantages the entire freight-handling system, waterside and landside.”

Lawmakers who push for port investments also criticized the president's budget for decreasing federal funding for the nation's cargo ship facilities. 

"During the last Congress, I worked hard to garner bipartisan support for a WRRDA spending plan that increased the amount of Harbor Maintenance funding going back to our ports and put us on the path to 100 percent spending of [Harbor Maintenance Tax] by 2025," Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) said in a statement, referencing a 2014 water funding bill that passed by Congress.

"Unfortunately, the President’s budget allocates just $950 million in [Harbor Maintenance Tax] spending—far below the WRRDA goal," Hahn continued. 

The Obama budget proposal calls for spending $1 billion on federal freight programs, but the port group said the measure would decrease funding for the EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant program by $40 million and FEMA’s National Preparedness Grant Program by $7 million. 

White House officials said the president's budget contains an "average of $1 billion per year for a multi-modal freight program that strengthens America’s exports and trade by providing grants for innovative rail, highway, and port projects that seek to reduce both emissions and particulate matter that harm local community health." 

AAPA's Nagle said the Obama budget is too focused on land-side cargo transportation, however. 

“While AAPA believes the administration’s budget would lead to improved freight movement over our surface transportation system, all would be for naught if the budget’s proposed cuts to waterside infrastructure programs were adopted,” he said. 

“If we can’t get the goods efficiently and competitively into and out of our country through seaports and waterside navigation channels, American manufacturers won’t be able to receive the materials and/or components they need, and they as well as U.S. farmers, won’t be able to competitively export their products globally," Nagle continued. "In addition, U.S. retailers and consumers will suffer.”

The full White House budget proposal can be read here.