CONNstruction - Winter 2011 - (Page 7)
Is Water Affordable?
CCIA President When it comes to federal infrastructure spending, clean water is the poor stepchild to other major capital programs. Some members of Congress would like to change that by improving the way federal investments in drinking water and wastewater projects are made. However, bringing these programs on par with other major federal infrastructure programs presents its own set of challenges. Next to military spending, significant federal infrastructure funding initiatives are the surface transportation and aviation programs. These programs have two major components. First, each has a multi-year authorization measure that sets policy and funding limits. Second, the funding for each is released to the states under annual appropriations measures, typically match-
By Donald Shubert
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have been proposing authorization legislation for several years. However, to date, none of those proposals have been enacted. A significant challenge in Congress is that the clean water programs lack the two main funding mechanisms that the large-scale federal infrastructure funding programs rely on. First, the clean water programs lack dedicated user fees, similar to the gas tax. Second, those programs lack a protected trust fund, such as the Highway Trust Fund. Enacting authorization legislation without a dedicated, protected funding stream is challenging in the best of times. It is even more challenging when Congress is focused on spending cuts. The lack of authorizing legislation has garnered much attention. There were several high-profile studies published between 2000 and 2003 that addressed the need to support federal authorization legislation. Those studies attempted to identify the gap between government investment in drinking water and wastewater systems, and the actual funding needed to operate, maintain and upgrade the infrastructure. The studies estimated an average annual gap between current spending and investment needs between $1.6 billion and $23.1 billion. They also estimated an average annual operations and maintenance gap between $0.3 billion and $36.3 billion. This broad range of estimates was the subject of much debate, depending on the weight given to factors such as technology improvements, location, conditions, and demand growth. While estimates of funding needs have become one focal point of discussion, the more pressing issue is that a funding gap exists and there is a growing need to close it. Today, we are 10 years into the 20-year period of those studies, and the federal government’s ability
While estimates of funding needs have become one focal point of discussion, the more pressing issue is that a funding gap exists and there is a growing need to close it.
ing the authorized level. The principal theory behind this combination of authorizations and appropriations is that it enhances planning for multi-year projects. For a few years, clean water project administrators enjoyed the benefits of multi-year federal authorizations. However, federal authorizing legislation was last enacted in 1996 for drinking water infrastructure and 1987 for wastewater infrastructure. Without authorizations, Congress has appropriated $85 billion in Clean Water Act assistance from the expiration of the authorization bills in 1994 through fiscal year 2010. Congressional committees, such as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the to enact authorization legislation is compromised by its intense focus on deficit reductions. It is very difficult for the construction industry to wait for Congress to act. Our industry has excess capacity and record unemployment; our workforce is skilled, trained and ready to report to work; and our water systems are going to need to be upgraded if we plan on continuing to enjoy the quality of life we have today. If the proper authorization legislation is put in place, then those federal investments will help reduce the federal deficit by yielding economic activity, and building the infrastructure that will support our future prosperity. This edition sheds some light on the answers.
CONNstruction / Winter 2011 / 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CONNstruction - Winter 2011
Is Water Affordable?
Water Infrastructure Projects Will Help Return the Construction Industry to Prosperity
FASB Backs Off, Requiring More Rigorous Withdrawal Liability Disclosures
The Potential of Public-Private Partnerships in Water and Wastewater Projects
Pour It On
The Name Says It All
Momentum Achieved on MDC Clean Water Project
2011 AGC of CT Industry Recognition Awards & Dinner
CCPC Annual Picnic
YCF September Meeting
The Diggers Mixers Fixers Annual Golf Outing
CEUCA Fall Luncheon
CONNstruction - Winter 2011