Mr. COURTNEY. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is simple. It would increase the Army Corps of Engineers operations and maintenance budget by $808 million in 2012. This number is not a random number that was just picked out of the air. This number represents the difference between the tax revenue collected through the harbor maintenance tax and the amount of money that is actually being spent out of the harbor maintenance trust fund for the purpose of maintaining and dredging America's harbors.
Again, for some listeners it might be helpful to understand that in 1986, the Congress passed a harbor maintenance tax, which is a tax--it is really a user fee--on imported goods coming into America's harbors all across this country, East Coast, West Coast, all across the coastlines of the United States of America. The purpose of that tax was to create a fund to dredge harbors so we would have passable waterways. Again, we have heard over and over this afternoon, that is good for the U.S. economy.
What has happened since 1986 is the revenue collected through the harbor maintenance tax has gone up at a steady rate. It has gone up 13 percent just in the last year because there are a lot more imported goods coming into this country, but the funding for actual dredging has plateaued. It has been at a level pace so that today, we have a budget which calls for using only 53 percent of the harbor maintenance taxes collected for the purposes of dredging America's harbors. This would be like having
only 53 percent of our gas taxes being spent on surface transportation in this country. If motorists saw only 53 percent of gas taxes being actually used to maintain roads in this country, there would be a revolution, because there is a promise in terms of Federal gas taxes that it will be used to maintain surface transportation.
Well, that was the equivalent idea under the harbor maintenance tax passed in 1986, that it would be used to invest and reinvest in America's harbors.
Because we are, in fact, diverting year in and year out hundreds of millions of dollars out of the harbor maintenance tax away from its intended purpose, we have what we have seen here this afternoon. We have heard from Members from Massachusetts, from New York, Louisiana, South Carolina, and New Jersey.
I can chime in from Connecticut. We have about $113 million of dredging that is underfunded from Bridgeport all of the way to Stonington. And I know the gentleman from New Jersey is familiar with the fact that we are on the silty side of Long Island Sound. Again, we have a Navy base which requires dredging to keep our attack submarines going in and out of New London. But we also have a maritime economy that depends on having these Federal waterways dredged.
The budget that we will be passing this year, whether it is the President's budget or whether it is the one that the subcommittee has reported out, is clearly inadequate in terms of making sure that our waterways are passable.
As we have heard from other Members, because of the increase in terms of imports, whether we pass these new free trade agreements or not, the expansion of the Panama Canal is going to double the amount of imports brought in by sea into this country, and we have a system that is clearly inadequate in terms of dealing with that challenge.
Now there is legislation pending before the Congress. I am a cosponsor with the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Boustany). It is called the RAMP Act. It is an acronym for Restore America's Maritime Promise Act, which is a grandiose title, but it is true. We need to make sure that these harbor maintenance taxes are being directed to their intended purpose when that tax was created in 1986. What the RAMP Act will do is basically cordon off this tax revenue so that it is used for the intended
purpose that Congress meant when it was passed in 1986.
What that will do is it will take pressure off this subcommittee's budget year in and year out. Again, it will deal with this problem that has worsened, as the subcommittee chairman mentioned, because earmarks are now a thing of the past in terms of dealing with dredging projects. What it will do is create a stable flow of money into the Army Corps of Engineers harbor maintenance dredging fund so that all of these projects that we have heard about this afternoon--again, from one end of the country
to the other--are actually going to be paid for. We have over 100 bipartisan cosponsors.
The Transportation Committee had a hearing this past Friday, and it does appear from Mr. Mica that they are going to move forward in terms of adopting the RAMP Act as part of the transportation authorization bill.
This amendment, again, puts a spotlight on the fact that only 53 percent of the harbor maintenance tax revenue is being used for its intended purpose, and that is the reason why I have offered this amendment.
I suspect it will be subject to a point of order. But again, I think it is important for people to realize there is a way out of this problem that we face: Pass the RAMP Act.
The CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, while I strongly support the gentleman from Connecticut's overall intent, I must regretfully oppose his amendment.
I share my colleague's concern for sufficiently maintaining our waterways. These waterways contribute significantly to our national economy by providing a means of cost-effective cargo transportation. In recognition of the economic benefits of navigation generally and maintenance dredging specifically, the bill before us provides funds above the President's budget request for navigation needs--$191 million in total and $99 million specifically for the operation and maintenance activities. This
funding represents a 12 percent increase over the President's own budget for navigation.
I also agree with the gentleman from Connecticut's idea that if the Federal Government levies a tax for a specific purpose, the revenue should be used for that purpose. Unfortunately, the only way to do that at this point would be to make substantial reductions in other priorities in our bill.
The gentleman's amendment would avoid those difficult decisions by simply not offsetting the additional spending, but our debt crisis makes that, [Page: H4810]
too, an untenable option. For these reasons, even though I am very much in support of what he is trying to achieve, which is things for navigation, keeping America open for business, I must oppose his amendment, and I will insist on my point of order.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman yielding, and just want to make one observation.
The gentleman is absolutely correct as far as the maintenance fund. After fiscal year 2012, there will be $6.928 billion in the fund. Today there is $5.474 billion in the fund. That discrepancy is $1.454 billion. Apparently, it will make the deficit look a bit better, but at $1 trillion, who are we fooling? Certainly no one in the United States of America. The chairman of the committee rightfully pointed out that it is unfair to those who are paying the tax, it is unfair to those companies who
want to make a fair profit, as well as to those who might be able to work, if we could resolve this problem.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, the amendment proposes a net increase in budget authority in the bill. The amendment is not in order under Section 3(j)(3) of House Resolution 5, 112th Congress, which states: ``It shall not be in order to consider an amendment to a general appropriations bill proposing a net increase in budget authority in the bill unless considered en bloc with another amendment or amendments proposing an equal or greater decrease in such budget authority pursuant to clause
2(f) of rule XXI.''
The amendment proposes a net increase in budget authority in the bill in violation of such section.
I ask for a ruling from the Chair.
The CHAIR. Does any Member wish to be heard on the point of order?
The gentleman from New Jersey makes a point of order that the amendment offered by the gentleman from Connecticut violates section 3(j)(3) of House Resolution 5. Section 3(j)(3) establishes a point of order against an amendment proposing a net increase in budget authority in the pending bill.
As persuasively asserted by the gentleman from New Jersey, the amendment proposes a net increase in budget authority in the bill. Therefore, the point of order is sustained. The amendment is not in order.
The Clerk will read.