Captain’s Corner – The $2 Ticket to Daydream
In the beginning of January, America crossed into Powerball Fever territory, and we were not immune to its influence at the Port Bureau. Sure, the odds of winning were “small” -- at about 1 in 292 million! Observers claim that one was 200 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to pick the lucky numbers. But we all knew that someone was going to be struck by that Powerball lightning bolt, making the allure of purchasing a $2 ticket to daydream too irresistible. In my daydream of winning the biggest Powerball jackpot in history, I would swing by the house in my new, custom-built, signature red, Model X Tesla, with Falcon Wing doors to pick up Annette, so we could zip over to our Learjet and head out to someplace exotic and expensive to work on my golf game.
Another part of my $2 ticket to daydream is that I would have a big say in how the taxes collected are used. The odds are even smaller here, but let’s use our imaginations. The taxes on a $1.6 billion jackpot are somewhere in the neighborhood of $400+ million, so it makes for good dreaming. What if, as a maritime person, I could direct the taxes collected specifically into a fund dedicated towards dredging and harbor maintenance? I would do it in a heartbeat! I would justify it on the rationale that a ship channel such as Houston’s needs $50 million annually for dredging and dredge material management. The $400 million, therefore, would provide for 8 predictable years of dredging. Each year would then generate $629.4 billion in economic activity for the country and $264.9 billion in Texas. This activity would also spin off $35.5 billion in tax revenue nationwide and $5 billion in state and local tax revenue. Not bad for a $2 gamble.
Of course, we don’t rely on lottery winnings to fund our waterway maintenance. Our channel users pay a Harbor Maintenance Tax, which funds the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HTMF), but this, too, has been a gamble until recently. Since 2011, Houston has contributed between $93 and $104 million each year to the HMTF, but only received $30-35 million back to maintain the channel. It may be a better bet than a lottery ticket, but it still drains the pockets of our port users. Change, however, is on the horizon. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) called for FY2016 appropriations from the HMTF to match 69% of FY2015 Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues – and Congress approved it! The Army Corps will have $1.25 billion nationally for dredging and channel maintenance this year, up from $915 million for the 2015 fiscal year. While it’s still less than the Powerball jackpot, we’ll take it.
Alas, since I am at the office writing this article instead of somewhere exotic working on putting, you can see my Powerball daydream will remain just that. Fortunately, it looks like our dream of consistent maintenance funding of our channel may become a reality, but we still need to work together to make sure our regional ports get their fair share. Please drop me a line if you want to brainstorm ways to take the gambling out of dredging funding.
- Date February 5, 2016
- Tags February 2016