President Obama Cites Needs of Ports In Stimulus Bill
Radio Announcement Mentions Port Security Among Key Stimulus Investments
In his first weekly radio address since taking office, President Barack Obama on Saturday outlined his $825 billion American Recovery & Reinvestment Plan to stimulate the battered U.S. economy, including providing funds to help make the country's seaports more secure and move cargo more efficiently.
"Finally, we will rebuild and retrofit America to meet the demands of the 21st century," the president stated in his Jan. 24 radio address to the nation. "That means repairing and modernizing thousands of miles of America's roadways . . . protecting America by securing 90 major ports and creating a better communications network for local law enforcement and public safety officials in the event of an emergency."
"The port industry lauds President Obama for highlighting in his first radio address the critical importance that secure ports play in our nation's homeland security and economic recovery," stated American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) President Kurt Nagle. "Safe and secure seaports are fundamental to protecting our borders and moving goods."
Mr. Nagle added, "America's ports are a critical part of our nation's infrastructure, serving as a vital economic lifeline by handling 2 billion tons of cargo annually, including food, clothing, medicine, fuel, and building materials, as well as a critical link to the global marketplace for U.S.-produced commodities such as grain and coal."
He indicated the port industry believes further increasing crucial deep-draft navigation funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works projects and eliminating the cost-share that ports must pay when they receive federal port security funds need to be added to the stimulus proposals.
"In order to create many new, family-wage jobs and address the nation's backlog of maintenance dredging and navigation construction projects, we believe the Corps requires a minimum of $7 billion this year for its Civil Works program," he noted. "Also, by waiving the 25 percent cost-share that government entities must pay when they receive Port Security Grant awards, our nation and our ports can continue to make progress on security and maintain jobs associated with these projects."
Mr. Nagle said AAPA is also urging that the final bill include eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax for private activity bonds used for port projects and elimination of the Harbor Maintenance Tax for certain U.S. port-to-port movements to encourage more environmentally-friendly transportation, as well as reduce congestion.
President Obama's address followed a stimulus proposal approved by the House Appropriations Committee, in cooperation with the House leadership, on Jan. 21. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 calls for spending $775 billion to create and save 3 million to 4 million jobs this year.
AAPA is encouraged that the House bill includes provisions for highways, rail, navigation and environmental improvements that would both create jobs immediately and also pay dividends in the future by making the movement of goods more efficient with less congestion and air pollution. These include:
$4.5 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with $2 billion for waterways construction and $2.2 billion for critically-needed deep-draft maintenance;
$30 billion for highways and bridges that would go to the states, giving port authorities the opportunity to work with state officials and their local metropolitan planning organizations to fund port-related road projects;
$100 million to purchase container cargo scanning equipment for seaports;
$150 million for the U.S. Coast Guard to repair or remove bridges deemed hazardous to marine navigation;
$200 million to implement transportation electrification programs authorized by Section 131 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17011), of which AAPA-member seaports have an array of projects that could benefit from these new funds; and,
$300 million for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to fund air emission reduction activities at seaports.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up its version of the stimulus bill at 10:30 a.m., Jan. 27. AAPA is hopeful that the additional Corps of Engineers funding and waiver of the port security cost-share is included in its proposal.