Obama Again Proposes Big SRF Cuts

April 2014, Vol. 69 No. 4

President Obama has once again proposed significant cuts in funding to the federal government's main grant program supporting water infrastructure development at the local level.

His fiscal 2015 budget proposal cuts funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) by 33 percent, the second year in a row the president has tried to radically reduce federal funding.

The Clean Water SRF would receive $1.018 billion in fiscal 2015 (starting Oct. 1, 2014) and the Drinking Water SRF $757 million. The total of $1.775 billion is nearly a $581 million reduction from the fiscal 2014 enacted budget. Cities, counties and states use the money as low-interest loans which they then repay to the SRFs.

This follows the script from last year where President Obama proposed an only slightly-less draconian spending cut of $472 million. The House GOP-controlled House went Obama one better, cutting the CWSRF by $1.2 billion and the DWSRF by $550 million. The Senate refused to go along with those reductions and the final fiscal 2014 budget, set as a result of the bipartisan Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)-Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) omnibus 2014 appropriations agreement in December 2013, was $2.4 billion.

Asked if Obama's proposed reduction for fiscal 2015 had a chance of being approved by Congress this year, Pat Sinicropi, director, legislative affairs, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, says, "We have very good champions in both the House and Senate for the SRF but it’s always a negotiation and every year brings a different set of pressures on the appropriations process. Having an administration that isn’t championing the SRFs makes it a steeper climb for supporters on the Hill to restore the funding.”

Whatever the final SRF budgets end up at for fiscal 2015, they will not reach the levels advocated by water infrastructure groups. They sent a letter to President Obama on Jan. 31, 2014, asking him to "continue robust funding levels of at least $1.449 million and $907 million for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs respectively."