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Posted on: February 22, 2021

PORT LEGISLATIVE AGENDA CENTERED ON REVENUES, INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS

As a self-sustaining city entity, the Galveston Wharves is always looking for new funding and partnership opportunities to help us create economic growth, jobs and other benefits for the Galveston region. During this Texas legislative session we’ll be asking lawmakers to consider nine actions that will provide sustainable revenues, improve port infrastructure and strengthen partnerships. Here are some of the highlights.

 

DIVERSE, SUSTAINABLE REVENUES

The state’s Ship Channel Improvement Revolving Fund was created to enhance public roadway connectivity to ports, but it’s currently limited to navigation districts. 

 

While most Texas ports are governed by navigation districts, the Galveston Wharves is not. We’re asking lawmakers to amend the state statute to make the funds available to all Texas ports, whether governed by a navigation district or not.

 

The Galveston Wharves also strongly supports the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) 2022-23 appropriations request to address infrastructure needs at Texas ports with $460 million in capital and ship channel improvement funds.

 

The state tax code allows Galveston to designate a portion of its state hotel occupancy tax (HOT) to pay for city-issued bonds for cruise terminals. We currently own two terminals and expect to have a third once Royal Caribbean moves forward with its construction. 

 

Any HOT approved or dedicated to the port through our legislative efforts will not impact the current funding to the city of Galveston or the Parks Board, which receive 9 cents and 6 cents respectively.

 

As the fourth most popular cruise port in the U.S., the Port of Galveston’s cruise operations have a huge economic impact on regional and state economies, including the island’s tourism and lodging sectors.

 

IMPROVING, OPTIMIZING INFRASTRUCTURE

The Galveston Wharves is urging the Texas Legislature to invest additional funds for maintenance dredging, which has been inadequately funded by Congress. The federal government collects the Harbor Maintenance Tax, but Congress hasn’t fully appropriated the funds to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, leaving a surplus of more than $9 billion at the end of Fiscal Year 2017.

 

Routine dredging is critical to maintain our 46-foot channel depth, which allows for the cargo and cruise ships that generate jobs and economic growth.

 

We’re also seeking state funding for capital projects to expand our cargo business. We have plans to fill three underutilized ship slips to create additional laydown area in our West Port Cargo Complex and to build a 1,000-foot-long wharf on Pelican Island.

 

STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIPS

The Port Authority Advisory Committee (PAAC), a nine-member board of largely Texas port representatives, provides recommendations to the Texas Transportation Commission on state-funded port capital improvement projects. Currently, the Galveston Wharves is not represented on the board. As the only cruise port in Texas and fourth most popular in North America, we’re asking lawmakers to create a permanent seat for the Galveston Wharves.

 

Finally, the Galveston Wharves will ask lawmakers to authorize the port to participate in the ship pilots rate approval process, as do other navigation districts and port authorities. We’ll also explore opportunities to discuss, collaborate, partner, and/or connect, expand and leverage Galveston County Navigation District No. 1’s scope and resources for the benefit of the region, state and beyond.

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