AWO's Wilson Warns User Tax On Waterways Will Damage National Economy

Additional user taxes on the barge industry would weaken the competitiveness of the barge mode and ultimately damage the whole economy, a barge industry leader said recently. He went on to warn against sacrificing the entire waterways system to "shortterm and short-sighted budgetary goals." Archie Wilson, chairman of the board of The American Waterways Operators, Inc. (AWO), made his remarks at the Water Resources Congress held in Memphis, Tenn. He addressed an audience of about 500, composed of r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s from federal agencies and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as consultants and river basin groups. Mr.

Wilson called for equal treatment of the transportation modes and charged that "Any cost recovery on barge freight must be matched with a cost recovery system for the billions of dollars in subsidy to rail freight." He cautioned, "We must not rob Peter to pay Paul." Mr. Wilson admitted that "As part of the Administration's package of proposals to shift financial responsibility to the private sector, waterways user taxes sound like good planning." But the chairman spoke against taxing one group of users — freight carriers — to the benefit of all others. Inland waterway projects provide direct benefits to farmers by making irrigation possible, to factories, businesses, and homes by supplying hydroelectric power; to whole communities by keeping floods under control; and to individuals by creating smooth waters for pleasure boating and recreation.

The AWO chairman reasoned that "If our national priority is economic recovery, the waterway system should be strengthened . . . It should not be overburdened to the point of extinction since it is the most economically efficient means of transporting goods." AWO is the national trade association representing the interests of the barge and towing industry. Its member companies operate on the inland and intracoastal waterways. AWO members also include the shipyards that build and service the vessels.

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