Monday Morning Briefing

Monday Morning Briefing

Lawmakers Pitch SRF, WIFIA Increases for Infrastructure Plan

A report released last week by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers offers a number of policy recommendations for rebuilding and renewing the nation’s infrastructure, including ideas to spur investment in water and wastewater systems.  But the document offers few new suggestions that have not previously been discussed, and it is unclear how much influence the report will have when congressional leaders begin to piece together their own infrastructure plan.

The report was authored by members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 48 lawmakers that exists to “analyze policies and find points of bipartisan consensus to address the enormous need for new infrastructure and the current backlog of deferred maintenance facing our country.”  The report offers broad policy recommendations, plus more specific ideas for six infrastructure sectors, including water and wastewater systems.  For the water sector, the lawmakers recommend several ideas that have been promoted by AMWA and other water sector groups, such as increasing spending on the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), boosting funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to its fully-authorized level of $45 million in FY18, promoting the development of regional water systems and reviewing duplicative state regulations that increase paperwork for utilities seeking SRF loans.  Other water and wastewater policy recommendations in the document include increasing research to combat harmful algal blooms, expanding WIFIA’s aid to small and rural communities and creating a federal water research agency “to directly support high-risk, high-rewards technology development.”

In a statement, members of the caucus said the report is intended to identify a “set of policies to serve as the bedrock for a plan that addresses the dire need to rebuild and responsibly invest in infrastructure across the United States.”  The report comes as the Trump Administration is reportedly planning to release its own infrastructure plan and as talk of a comprehensive infrastructure bill is increasing on Capitol Hill.  But at this point it is impossible to say which, if any, of the ideas in the report may make their way into any subsequent infrastructure package.