17th Annual Municipal Survey

In Search Of The Silver Lining
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2014, Vol. 69 No. 2

However, even with the projected increase in spending anticipated for 2014, survey respondents emphasize that just to meet their actual needs in 2014, they need an increase of 23 percent – far exceeding any proposed increased. And, as one Midwest muni official stressed, “That’s just to maintain. We need a whole lot more if we’re ever going to get ahead of our system’s demands.”

Funding hope

In Congress, some reason for optimism has been raised since the fiscal year 2014 budget agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans contains a $22 billion pot of money to be used by the Obama administration to fund investments in education and infrastructure. That kind of funding has not been available since the 2009 economic stimulus bill. Unfortunately for sewer and water infrastructure, as much money as that is, when spread over education needs plus roads and bridges, odds are not good that large sums will trickle down to the underground infrastructure.

Actually, the Senate included creation of a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority as an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. That bill passed the Senate and is currently in conference with the House. However, Congress would have to appropriate federal funds to seed the Authority. That would be somewhat unlikely, given the congressional opposition to almost all new federal spending programs.

In the House, a Water Infrastructure Investment Act has been introduced with the support of senior Republicans on the water infrastructure authorizing Committees. The legislation would establish a trust fund and then create a voluntary fee program where manufacturers of products that use significant amounts of water in production or produce materials that require special filtration from wastewater could choose to add a 3 cent surcharge per unit to their product to be deposited in the trust fund. The revenue from this fee would go towards a Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund, of which 85 percent would go towards replenishing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the remaining 15 percent would fund a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority to provide low-cost capital to clean water infrastructure projects.