Thursday, May 25, 2017

Proposed Trump Budget Would Impose Maritime-Related Funding Cuts

By Mark Edward Nero

This week, the Trump Administration released its proposed budget for 2018 and among the proposals listed was the elimination of the US Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

The program, which provides funding to port, road, rail and transit projects nationwide, awarded US ports $61.8 million in multimodal infrastructure grants such as dock, rail and road improvements last year.

The proposed budget also calls for a steep cut to the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grant Program (PSGP), which Congress last funded at $100 million, and which provided 35 port security-related grants in fiscal 2017. The program’s funding would be reduced by 52 percent, to $47.8 million.

Trump has also proposed drastically decreasing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants. DERA grants help ports make investments in clean diesel equipment and reduction strategies. Funds help businesses buy newer, cleaner-burning trucks, locomotives and vessels. DERA grants are currently funded at $60 million, while Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget calls for only $10 million in funding.

American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) President and CEO Kurt Nagle said that his organization, which represents the interests of seaports across the US, has issues with the proposed cuts.

“We’re concerned about the significant reductions proposed for fiscal 2018 in many of the programs critically important to ports, such as TIGER discretionary grants, HMTF (Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund) outlays, port security grants, and assistance in reducing diesel emissions,” Nagle said in a statement.

AAPA has called for $66 billion in federal funds for port-related infrastructure over the next decade to “ensure US job creation, economic growth, safe and secure ports and tax fairness.” On the water side, AAPA has recommended investing $33.8 billion to maintain and modernize deep-draft shipping channels, and $32 billion to build vital road and rail connections to ports and improve port facility infrastructure.

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 $321 billion a year in federal, state and local tax revenue, Nagle said.