Sharp Budget Knife at Throat of SRFs

April 2011 Vol. 66 No. 4

The Environmental Protection Agency’s water infrastructure congressional appropriations are destined to sink, maybe like stones, this year. Republicans and some Democrats want to severely cut the appropriations for both the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds in fiscal year 2011, which started last Oct. 1.

President Obama has proposed a $947 million cut, total, for both programs in fiscal 2012, so there is bipartisan agreement that water infrastructure funding will be drastically cut. The only question is how far and how fast?

The Obama administration proposed a total CW and DW SRF budget of $2.5 billion in fiscal 2012 -- a decrease of $947 million from fiscal year 2010 funding. But Congress will have to set a fiscal 2011 budget first. It has delayed doing that by passing a succession of what are called continuing resolutions (CR) which extend fiscal 2010 budget levels for all agencies into fiscal 2011. So the SRFs are being funding currently in 2011 at 2010 levels which, for the CWSRF is $2.0 billion and the DRSRF is $1.3 billion.

However, the House passed a bill (H.R. 1) on Feb. 19, which cuts the final budgets for 2011 for the CWSRF to $700,000 and the DWSRF to $557 million. Those are just two of nearly one hundred program reductions amounting to $61 billion spread over numerous federal agencies. The SRF reductions in H.R. 1 for 2011 are $400 million more than what Obama proposed for those two programs in his 2012 budget. Republicans would cut the SRFs sooner and deeper than the President. It is not clear whether the GOP would then seek additional cuts from the already crippled 2011 budgets in 2012.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and allied agencies call the "drastic cuts" to the SRFs in H.R. 1 "strongly misguided." Ken Kirk, NACWA’s executive director, says, “At a time when water quality is suffering and regulatory burdens on local communities continue to increase, we must ensure that we do not lose the water quality progress we have worked so hard to achieve. The proposal before the House runs that very real risk.”