In the News

Trump Budget Seeks Higher User Fees on Barge Operators

February 10, 2020   Bloomberg Government

View Source

Trump Budget Seeks Higher User Fees on Barge Operators

  • Corps budget seeks to impose new user fee on barges
  • Fee comes on top of existing diesel fuel tax

By Amena H. Saiyid | February 10, 2020 6:16PM ET

The Trump administration wants to levy a new user tax on barge operators to upgrade the nation’s lock and dam system, as part of its budget request to fund the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal 2021.


The Corps’ budget request of $6.9 billion is seeking to boost funding for the inland waterways program by imposing a new user fee atop the 29-cent diesel fuel charge already levied on shippers over a 10-year period. The fee increase could eventually filter into higher commodity prices, as major supplies like coal and grain are often transported by barge.


The Waterways Council Inc. called the additional user tax on inland shippers “horrendous.” The council said the administration is seeking to raise $1.8 billion for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which funds major improvements to the nation’s lock and dam system, while proposing “zero dollars” for ongoing projects directly out of federal funds.


“We already voluntarily raised our fuel tax by 45% to 29 cents, and this proposal is seeking to raise it by 150%. We already pay the highest fuel tax of all modes of transportation,” Mike Toohey, the council’s president said in an interview. The council represents inland shippers, and advocates for modernizing the country’s lock and dam system, through which most goods are shipped via barges.

During fiscal 2020, Congress appropriated $335 million for four main inland waterway projects, including upgrades to the Kentucky lock and the Chickamauga Lock in Tennessee, where a lack of continued federal funding would cause work to stop, he said.

“The message to workers in Kentucky and Tennessee is go home,” Toohey said.


To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Anna Yukhananov at