The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has expressed optimism regarding congressional efforts to attain early authorization on a new Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) by the Sept. 30 legislative deadline.
According to Robyn Boerstling, NAM’s vice president of infrastructure, innovation and human resources policy, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s H.R. 5303 (WRDA of 2016) includes authorizations “for key civil works missions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including inland waterway navigation and port dredging — infrastructure investments that are vital to manufacturers and our competitiveness.”
Boerstling praised the bill’s “continued investment in harbors” and a provision to ensure ad valorem duties collected on imports going into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which would be fully utilized for maintenance of ports and harbors beginning in 2027, “essentially creating a firewall to protect funds,” she wrote last week in a blog post on NAM’s official website.
The House bill joins with the Senate’s S. 2848, which passed out of Committee in April and is currently awaiting floor time.
“Though there are significant differences between the House and Senate bills, there is wide agreement on the need to accomplish WRDA legislation this year,” Boerstling said.
One cause for concern highlighted in Boerstling’s statement is that in the Senate’s WRDA bill, there is “a new program to increase grant funds for drinking water infrastructure through the offering of an optional 3 cent label for manufactured products that in turn generates income for a strictly voluntary Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund, a provision manufacturers are concerned will be taken out of context in time and evolve to a mandatory tax.”
Still, Boerstling believes it is a step in the right direction.
“Manufacturers praise this early authorization effort, well in advance of the September 30 legislative deadline,” she said. “Too frequently, Congress has leaned on short-term authorizations and extensions for infrastructure, creating a stop-start dynamic that makes it difficult to pursue large projects of regional and national significance. Manufacturers are optimistic that Congress will continue to work in a bipartisan way to advance key infrastructure priorities.”