Sen. Murray includes HMT benefits for Seattle, Tacoma ports in Senate bill

With Sen. Patty Murray’s leadership, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding for a critical provision that would reform the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and significantly benefit the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. 

As so-called “donor ports,” the ports of Seattle and Tacoma currently receive pennies for each dollar credited to the fund through Harbor Maintenance Tax collections. 

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murray (D-WA) succeeded in fully funding Section 2106 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). This section was co-authored by Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and signed into law in 2014. Murray’s funding provision was included in the Senate’s proposed Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  

Section 2106 reforms the HMT to address for the first time in history the system’s inequities toward “donor ports” and cargo diversion by authorizing $25 million for these ports to use for port infrastructure improvements and rebates to importers and shippers in order to even the playing field for the ports of Tacoma, Seattle and others.

“Ports are the lifeblood of the Washington state economy, and so I was proud to work with my colleagues to make sure this bill works for Washington state workers and the economy,” Murray said. “I will keep working to make sure the ports of Seattle and Tacoma get the resources they need to make infrastructure improvements and retain a competitive edge over ports in Canada and Mexico, which is critical to the entire U.S. economy.”

“The Seaport Alliance between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma is an example of the bold measures our ports are taking to maintain a competitive trade gateway in the Pacific Northwest,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton. “We are pleased the Senate has stepped in to fund this program that will support our efforts, as well as those of other US ports. Addressing our HMT cost disadvantage relative to Canadian ports has been a top priority for the Port of Seattle and we are grateful to Sen. Murray for her leadership on this important issue.”

Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Johnson agreed: “Puget Sound ports have taken a beating from the Harbor Maintenance Tax since 1986. Sen. Murray has courageously stepped up and thrown a counterpunch on our behalf.”

“Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Murray, customers calling on Puget Sound ports will finally feel like they are getting something for their money. That’s called customer service,” said Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe.

“Last year’s legislation was the first time Congress recognized what we in the Pacific Northwest have been facing for years—a cost disadvantage when compared with Canadian ports because of U.S. tax policy,” said Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick. “By funding Section 2106, the Senate has provided us with a new tool to help level the playing field and improve Puget Sound’s competitiveness.”

About the ports of Seattle and Tacoma

Combined, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are the third-largest container gateway in North America. A recent analysis performed by Martin Associates estimates that the two ports’ marine cargo operations supported more than 48,000 jobs, which generated nearly $4.3 billion in economic activity in 2013. If the farmers and manufacturers who ship products through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are factored in, the ports’ activities reach 443,000 jobs overall in Washington.

Port of Tacoma
Sean Eagan

Port of Seattle
Peter McGraw