Obama budget garners mixed reaction among ports

Obama budget garners mixed reaction among ports
© Getty Images

President Obama's proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year leaves much to be desired for ports, according to the association that advocates for water infrastructure investment in Washington.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said this week that Obama's $3.9 trillion budget proposal cut funding for port-related programs too deeply, even as the president was calling for an overall increase infrastructure spending.

Transportation advocates have lauded Obama's proposal for spending $302 billion on a new road and transit funding bill, but the AAPA said the president's budget also included cuts to the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers' funding for port maintenance and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) grant program for reducing diesel emissions by ships.

ADVERTISEMENT

AAPA President Kurt Nagle said the port industry was happier with Obama's call for establishing a $1.25 billion trust fund for multimodal infrastructure projects and increasing funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program.

“AAPA believes these grants would have strong and positive effects on freight system improvement, although we don’t know yet how much is specifically proposed for improving landside connections with America’s ports and their landside connections” Nagle said in a statement.

Nagle said it would be tough for the port industry to sustain Obama's proposed 5.8 percent decrease to the Army Corps of Engineers, which plays a role in most federal water infrastructure projects. 

"The Corps of Engineers’ budget proposal falls well short of the waterside maintenance and modernization needs of this country," Nagle said. "We were disappointed to see that the budget request for Corps port-related programs decreased from the FY 2014 enacted budget in both the operations and maintenance and the construction accounts, despite the President's call to upgrade U.S. ports and the goal of doubling exports. Our nation is at a critical point in maintaining our international competitiveness, and the FY 2015 budget request would result in trade-related infrastructure losing further ground at a time when we are already behind many of our competitors.”

The port industry's mixed reaction to Obama's proposal was a stark contrast to the reaction of other areas of the transportation sector, which cheered Obama's proposal for boasting road and transit funding beyond the legislation that is expired in September.

Obama called for using $150 billion in revenue he said could be created by closing corporate tax loopholes to pay for a new round of road and transit spending.

The proposal comes as the federal government's trust fund for transportation projects, the Highway Trust Fund, faces a projected bankruptcy date of as early as August.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are currently conferencing on an $8.2 billion port and waterways bill known as the Water Resources Development Act.