By Mark Edward Nero
The American Association of Port Authorities said March 16 that it has concerns regarding the potential of significant declines for most federally funded, port-related programs in President Trump’s first proposed fiscal budget.
Proposed for the budget chopping block is the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which last year awarded US 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 provided 35 port security-related grants in fiscal 2017, is expected to experience a significant cut.
“We’re apprehensive about the fiscal 2018 budget,” AAPA president and CEO Kurt Nagle said. “Adequate federal investments into US 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 US 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, according to the AAPA.
“International trade through ports is vital to our economy,” Nagle said.
The AAPA has also given its key recommendations for the fiscal 2018 budget. They include:
• Expand the USDOT’s TIGER program, or create a similar new, multimodal discretionary grant program, 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 grants for nationally and regionally significant transportation projects.
• Increase funding to $400 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant Program and increase the number of Customs officers in the maritime environment by 500.
“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.”