Meanwhile, we must be prepared to see states hit hard with reduced income likely cutting valuable recreational boating programs going forward.
The Coast Guard is looking for input on an important waterways study. The goal of the Shallow Draft Waterways Analysis and Management System Study is to update Coast Guard policies and make U.S. navigable waterways safer and more efficient. Applying to waters shallower than 12 feet, the survey will remain open for input until Nov. 1.
NMMA is urging all stakeholders in the recreational boating community to participate.
We know well, on the retail and marina levels of our industry, that the nation’s waterways have become increasingly congested and complex. That comes into clear focus when we see that the number and size of the vessels transiting the Marine Transportation System has increased, but the number and, in some cases, size of navigation corridors has not.
The Coast Guard says that to address these changes and determine navigation requirements for the Shallow Draft Waterway System, it needs feedback from local maritime partners and stakeholders that operate on the affected waterways. That includes hundreds of boat dealers and marinas nationwide.
The study’s purpose is to determine the navigational needs and requirements of vessels operating in shallow-draft waterways throughout the country. The study will focus on the existing shallow water aids to navigation system, future development projects, waterborne commerce transiting these waters and marine casualty information.
States Will Make Cuts
One result of the Covid-19 pandemic has been huge reductions in states’ incomes. And with aid to states and cities in the next round of federal stimulus one of the many unresolved issues in the quagmire known as Congress, we can expect programs that benefit our industry will see cuts.
In fact, state and local governments started reducing spending at a 5.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal. They did so primarily by laying off workers and pulling back on services. More cuts are certainly on the way.
To put some numbers on what states will need, Moody’s estimates it to be around $500 billion over the next two years to plug budget holes. Without it, state and local spending cuts will be accomplished by more layoffs, as well as the elimination of good discretionary programs. We’re talking up to 4 million lost jobs — state and local governments employ 13 percent of U.S. workers — and such programs as boating access construction, boater education, lake channel maintenance, law enforcement and many more that benefit boating and fishing.
State and local governments received $150 billion in the last stimulus package, which was limited to coronavirus-related expenses. Most of it reportedly has been used up, and state and local tax revenues still fall. The National Governors Association says states need another $500 billion in federal aid to make up for lost revenue. The U.S. Conference of Mayors says cities need $250 billion.
Almost all states and local governments require balanced budgets. For now, they have largely avoided raising taxes to plug budget holes, opting instead to cut spending or dip into reserves.
It seems unlikely states and cities will get that projected $500 billion more in the next two years. So as more cuts come, they will be a drag on the overall economic recovery and may trigger states considering increased sales or income taxes on businesses. And all that could have a dampening effect on our industry well into 2021.
Is there a bright spot? Maybe. Regaining jobs has been on a good clip this summer with unemployment rapidly dropping below 10 percent. If the job gains were to continue, say at July and August’s pace, the job losses would be erased by March 2021. Let’s face it, if payrolls could reclaim their last peak in as little as 13 months, it would be remarkably fast. Remember, it took us more than six years to fully recover from the last recession.
Can the quick rehiring pace continue? There’s no denying it faces headwinds. So the best action is to accept that it could, but the realistic leader’s play will be to save now and lay serious plans for the worst.