On October 22 the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763) by voice vote. Unfortunately, H.R. 3763 did not include a Senate provision that is critical to releasing the flow of federal funds to desperately needed water infrastructure projects under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).
As we discussed in our September 9 post, the Senate version of the Highway Trust Fund reauthorization includes a provision repealing a pointless and damaging ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds to co-finance WIFIA projects. This ban undermines WIFIA’s potential to attract needed investments, because tax-exempt bonds are the most cost-effective source of the required non-WIFIA share of project costs. The ban artificially inflates the cost of using WIFIA by requiring project sponsors to reply on more costly co-finance options like taxable debt. The Senate HTF bill wisely addresses the need to remove this prohibition and allow WIFIA funds to flow freely, and the House must now do the same.
We at CWC will be working to persuade Congress to include the repeal in the final reauthorization legislation that emerges from House-Senate conference negotiations, and we encourage you to help us out. Last week Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fl) introduced H.R. 3756, the WIFIA Improvement Act, repealing the ban. We urge you to contact your Representative urging him or her to support this legislation, or to otherwise ensure that a repeal of the ban is included in any HTF action that Congress takes. Click here for a sample letter making this important case.
We report weekly here on local communities’ staggering need for water infrastructure project funds (by some estimates the U.S. needs nearly $2 trillion over the next 25 years to restore our crumbling drinking water and wastewater systems) so we are acutely aware of the need to do away with a needless impediment to the flow of those funds. Join us in making Congress aware of that need as well!