House Committee Drastically Reduces SRF Budgets For Next Year

September 2013, Vol. 68 No. 9

The House Appropriations Committee made huge cuts in the fiscal 2014 budgets of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF and DWSRF), the main source of federal aid to cities and counties for the purpose of water infrastructure maintenance and construction.

The full House will probably go along with those reductions, leaving the Senate to help restore some of the funds. What is likely to happen is that the Senate will pass much higher levels, and a House-Senate conference committee will settle for figures somewhere in the middle.

Both houses of Congress are under intense pressure to reduce itemized federal spending throughout the government both as a means to reduce the federal deficit and as a means to replace the sequester, the policy adopted for fiscal 2013 which cuts almost all federal programs by four percent. Members of both parties believe the sequester is a "blunt tool" and want to replace the across the board spending cuts with targeted cuts to programs that have, in some cases, outlived their usefulness. Funding to the SRFs falls into that category, in some minds, because the funds are essentially permanently "capitalized" as cities and counties repay past loans.

The House Appropriations Interior subcommittee reduced the appropriations for the CWSRF and DRSRF from $1.4 billion and $909 million in the current fiscal year 2013, to $350 million and $250 million for fiscal 2014. President Obama proposed reducing the total for both programs from $2.3 billion to $1.87 billion, a 19 percent reduction.

The drastic House subcommittee reductions for the SRFs came as part of a larger reduction to the entire budget of the Environmental Protection Agency which includes $24.3 billion in base funding, which is a cut of $5.5 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. “This is a difficult budget year, and this bill reflects the extraordinarily hard choices needed to maintain critical investments and services for local communities," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers says. "In order to do more with less, the legislation seeks to protect vital programs that directly affect the safety and well-being of Americans, while dramatically scaling back lower-priority, or ‘nice-to-have’ programs.”