On Wednesday, Congressman Bill Huizenga, Co-Chair of the U.S. House Great Lakes Task Force, testified before the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee on the importance of properly using funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and water infrastructure across the Great Lakes. Congressman Huizenga discussed the strong bipartisan effort he has led to hold Washington accountable and make the federal government live up to its promise of dredging harbors across the Great Lakes. Huizenga also warned of the negative economic consequences including fewer jobs and fewer American products being exported should the federal government fail to live up to its obligation.
Harbors and navigation channels are a vital part of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and a reduction in their capacity can have significant impacts on local communities. The inefficiencies resulting from poorly maintained harbors drive up the cost of U.S. exports and imports, which threatens U.S. economic growth. We can’t sell more Made-in-America products if they can’t leave our harbors. While many transportation infrastructure programs are struggling to identify beneficiary-paid revenue streams to meet their needs, maritime commerce has been paying enough to meet the operations and maintenance needs of all federally-authorized harbors for decades.
During my first year in Congress, our ports and navigation channels were maintained with just 47% of the revenue collected into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Having a 74% target for fiscal year 2018 shows just how far we have come. This funding is especially vital for the 140 federally maintained commercial and recreational ports and harbors in the Great Lakes - many of which are facing a crisis. However, 92 of these harbors have not been federally maintained in many years because of a lack of funding. At the same time, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has a balance of nearly $10 billion.
Instead of increasing the balance of the Trust Fund or spending the money elsewhere, I urge you to dedicate harbor maintenance tax revenue for its intended purpose. Enough Harbor Maintenance Tax revenue is collected each year to meet the nation’s annual authorized harbor maintenance needs for harbors of all sizes in all regions of our country - from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf Coast and from the Port of Long Beach to Muskegon, Michigan in my district.
Many West Michigan families have already begun, or are about to begin their holiday weekend. As you climb into your car and get on the road, remember to travel safely. Enjoy the weekend with your family, friends, and loved-ones, but please keep in your hearts the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom as well as the veterans and families who carry their memory.
Update on the Great Lakes & President Trump's Budget. An important fact to remember in this discussion is that Congress, not the President, determines what programs are funded. I believe the Great Lakes are a national priority. In fact, Congress just supported fully funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for the remainder of the current fiscal year. By reaching across the aisle, I have worked in a bipartisan manner to reject cuts put forward by President Obama and President Trump to the GLRI. The health and vitality of the Great Lakes are instrumental to having sustained economic growth in Michigan and across the entire Great Lakes region. I remain committed to working with both Republicans and Democrats to prioritize, strengthen, and defend the Great Lakes.
This afternoon, the CBO's projection confirmed that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and reduce the federal deficit. Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services released a study detailing how premiums for Michigan residents on the individual market have increased by 90% over the last four years alone. ObamaCare is collapsing and isn’t sustainable. We need to restore the ability for hardworking Michiganders to choose the health care plan that best meets their needs. The AHCA is a positive step in helping to achieve that objective.
My heart goes out to the families impacted by the heinous attack in Manchester. We must stand united with our allies across the Atlantic and around the globe to combat terrorism. Those who target and seek to harm innocent children are enemies of peace and freedom who must be held accountable for their actions.
The Congressional Review Act has allowed Congress to eliminate 14 burdensome regulations the Obama Administration finalized in its waning days - including my bill to eliminate a job-destroying provision of Dodd-Frank. We need to enact commonsense reforms that rein in "regulation nation" and allow our economy to grow.