A federal law called the Jones Act recently prevented New Jersey officials from treating dangerous roads with salt.
Faced with a shortage of salt, state officials asked the federal government to let them transport salt on a foreign vessel in time to prepare for an approaching winter storm.
Federal bureaucrats denied New Jersey’s request, arguing that the Jones Act requires the state to use U.S. vessels to transport the salt unless national defense is threatened.
Federal officials allowed New Jersey to get its salt, but they were a day late and a dollar short—actually, more like a week-and-a-half late and $700,000 short. New Jersey’s salt began to arrive after the winter storm had passed, and at a cost of $1.2 million on U.S. barges instead of the $500,000 the state had arranged to pay to have the salt shipped on the foreign cargo vessel Anastasia S.
According to state transportation director Jim Simpson:
I’ve never been aggravated more in my life than about this salt issue, because this is a no-brainer for government to fix. If we can’t feel that it’s in the public’s interest to get salt down here, then there’s no hope for anything else, as far as I’m concerned.
New Jersey’s state assembly recently voted 73–0 to urge give the federal government to use its discretion to waive the Jones Act whenever the health or safety of U.S. citizens is endangered, in addition to when national defense is at stake. Congress should respond to the latest Jones Act fiasco either by enacting such moderate reforms or, even better, by fully repealing the 94-year-old law.