AMWA Cheers WIFIA Fix in Transportation Bill
December 1, 2015
Contact: Dan Hartnett
Washington, D.C. – The “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act” conference report includes a long-sought improvement to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) pilot program, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies announced today. AMWA and a coalition of water and wastewater sector organizations have consistently urged Congress to make this important revision to WIFIA since the pilot program was passed into law last year.
“Congress passed WIFIA to help municipal water systems pay for large-scale infrastructure projects,” said AMWA Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei. “But as enacted the law limited the WIFIA pilot program to covering only up to 49 percent of a project’s total cost, while also barring communities from paying for the remainder with tax-exempt municipal bonds – the most common financing mechanism used by public water systems. If left in place, this limitation would deter the vast majority of public water systems from using WIFIA at all.”
Section 1445 of the FAST Act conference report simply eliminates a paragraph from the 2014 WIFIA statute that prohibits communities from financing water infrastructure improvements with financing packages that include both WIFIA loans and tax-exempt debt such as municipal bonds.
“By eliminating the unnecessary restriction on combining tax-exempt debt with WIFIA loan proceeds, Congress will set the stage for the WIFIA pilot program to demonstrate its value as a unique water infrastructure financing tool,” VanDe Hei continued. “AMWA looks forward to working with Congress to secure robust funding for the WIFIA pilot program in the 2016 fiscal year and beyond.”
VanDe Hei also praised the members of Congress from both parties who played a role in helping pass the original WIFIA pilot program in 2014, and advancing its fix in the FAST Act.
“Many lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have been strong supporters of WIFIA, including Senators Barbara Boxer and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Bob Gibbs, Carlos Curbelo, and Jerry McNerney,” VanDe Hei said. “AMWA and its members across the country would like to express its utmost gratitude to all members of Congress who have stood up in support of our nation’s water infrastructure.”