Barge tax hike discussed at Highway Trust Fund bill markup

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, July 10, 2014 - An amendment that would provide additional funding to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) came up again today on Capitol Hill, in a Senate Finance Committee markup of bill to preserve the Highway Trust Fund. No action was taken on the measure.

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Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., has authored an amendment that would generate an estimated additional $80 million a year for the IWTF, according to Waterways Council Inc. WCI has members that include representatives from ports, waterways carriers, and agricultural producer groups, about 175 in total. The organization advocates for well-maintained ports and inland waterways.

In today's markup for the highway bill, Casey was able to discuss - but not offer - the amendment and received words of support from committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“(The IWTF) is particularly attractive as in infrastructure model because, in effect, those who participate are going to pay for the program,” Wyden said shortly before pledging to work closely with Casey on the issue.

Casey's amendment would increase the barge fuel tax by 9 cents a gallon, to 29 cents a gallon, to help pay for new construction and for infrastructure improvements to locks and dams along the 12,000 mile Inland Waterways System. Around 300 users of the system that would directly pay the increase unanimously support the amendment.

Shortly after Casey discussed his amendment, the committee voted to report out the highway trust fund bill. Senate Finance Committee staff described the current bill as an “agreement to sustain the Highway Trust Fund while they negotiate a long term plan.”

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