For all intents and purposes, the federal budget process is over. Over as in, not moving forward, not over as in completed.
The House will take up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 this week. As we discussed in our previous post, the Interior Appropriations bill funds the EPA’s State Revolving Fund programs, and the WIFIA program, both of which are primary funding sources for water infrastructure projects nationwide.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, it has become clear the Senate has given up on regular order for the budget.
On July 11, 2016, the White House threatened to veto the House version for policy riders that bar funding for specific regulations put out by the Administration. While critical of these provisions within the legislation the White House did offer some interesting – though half-hearted – praise for “the bill’s investments in EPA’s water infrastructure financing programs, including the State Revolving Funds for clean water and drinking water projects and the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program.” The Presidents own proposed budget would have cut $256 million from the SRF’s.
With both the House and Senate adjourning for the Presidential Conventions by July 15th, it seems Congress will again come up short of its Constitutional obligation to set the budget for the country. The likely alternative is a continuing resolution (CR)- or bill that would simply extend current spending levels- until a set date. That date, could be cause for some debate. It has been reported that the House’s most conservative faction, the House Freedom Caucus, will push for a CR that lasts well into the first hundred days of the next president. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-MI) has been vocal against a CR of that length, but it is unclear where the majority of House Republican’s stand and whether House Democrats will cooperate.
From the CWC’s perspective, a CR would be favored when compared to the House version of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017 because the House version would cut $186 million from the SRF programs. Those cuts become significantly less likely in a CR. The Senate version would increase SRF accounts by $114 million, but seems even less likely than the House version to be enacted.
As the appropriations season closes, we at the CWC remain optimistic that the House and Senate will come together to pass a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Both chambers have introduced legislation, but neither has been considered by the full body. The CWC wishes to reiterate to lawmakers the powerful economic drivers that derive from robust investment in water infrastructure. Our economy, public health, and way of life rely on widespread, reliable access to clean and potable water. WRDA would take measurable steps toward investing in water infrastructure and ensuring our water infrastructure is safe and reliable for years to come.