The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has voiced its concern over the potential of significant declines for most federally funded, port-related programs in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget.
“We’re apprehensive about the fiscal 2018 budget,” said Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO. “Adequate federal investments into U.S. port-related infrastructure, both on the landside and waterside, are crucial for the efficient movement of goods so the nation can remain globally competitive.
“Activities at U.S. seaports account for more than a quarter of the nation’s economy, support over 23 million American jobs and generate more than $320 billion a year in federal, state and local tax revenue. It’s vital the federal government uphold its end of the partnership with ports so the country can have a 21st century goods movement system in place.”
Proposed for the budget chopping block is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which last year awarded U.S. ports $61.8 million in multimodal infrastructure grants such as dock, rail and road improvements. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grants Program (PSGP), which Congress last funded at $100 million and which provided 35 port security-related grants in fiscal 2017, is expected to experience a significant cut.
Trump has also proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget by 31 percent. EPA’s budget funds the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants. While no details have been released on the fate of this program, which is authorized at $100 million, DERA grants have been especially helpful in decreasing port-related diesel emissions in near-port communities, says Nagle. These federal grants have helped ports to make investments in clean diesel equipment and reduction strategies at the ports themselves, and they’ve used them to help businesses buy newer, cleaner-burning trucks, locomotives and vessels.
While the president’s proposed budget calls for increasing the overall U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) budget by $400 million over the previous administration’s request of $4.6 billion, the request still represents a 16 percent decrease in the Corps budget when compared to the Continuing Resolution fiscal 2017 level. Details for the Corps’ Coastal Navigation portion of the budget aren’t yet known, but are expected to be available in May. The Coastal Navigation program funds improvements and maintenance in America’s harbors and deep-draft shipping channels.
“International trade through ports is vital to our economy,” said Nagle. “To help the public and policymakers fully recognize the value and contributions to the economy related to our ports, AAPA has created the America: Keep It Moving campaign, which highlights the needs and benefits of investing in seaport infrastructure.”
AAPA’s key recommendations for the fiscal 2018 budget:
• Provide $2.9 billion for the Corps’ Navigation program, including $1.6 billion for the Coastal Navigation portion that covers deep-draft investigations, construction, operations and maintenance, and donor and energy transfer port activities.
• Expand USDOT’s TIGER program, or create a new, multimodal discretionary grant program like it, and fund it at $1.25 billion annually.
• Continue funding USDOT’s FAST Act programs at currently authorized levels, which includes formula funds to states and FAST Lane grants for nationally and regionally significant transportation projects. Furthermore, expand the amount of funds available for multimodal projects which is currently limited to $500 million a year through 2020.
• Increase funding to $400 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant Program and increase the number of CBP officers in the maritime environment by 500.
• Fund DERA grants at the $100 million authorized level.
Nagle concluded: “While the president’s budget request includes significant funding cuts to some port-related programs, we’re hopeful that, as the fiscal 2018 budget process as well as the anticipated sizable infrastructure package moves forward, that significant federal investments will be made in port-related infrastructure. Such investments will pay huge dividends in terms of economic growth, American jobs and tax revenues.”