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Hearing in House Committee Highlights Water Infrastructure Finance
March 2, 2012
The Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), held a hearing to review innovative approaches for financing community water infrastructure projects. The subcommittee focused on potential financing tools, including many AGC priorities in the water infrastructure sector. The chairman’s opening statement acknowledged the substantial water infrastructure needs and the unfortunate results of deferred investment. Witnesses pointed out that local governments continue to be concerned about the impacts unfunded federal mandates have on their ability to meet compliance obligations, especially given municipalities' dwindling revenues in the current economic climate.
Much of the discussion centered on options for finance, and AGC’s statement outlined several. Many of the panelists discussed lifting the volume cap on tax-exempt private activity bonds for water and wastewater infrastructure. This would encourage public-private partnerships, which one panelist indicated were becoming increasingly attractive investments for pension and retirement funds. Others discussed the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which the Committee Chair and ranking Democrat have both crafted legislation to implement. The program would create loans for water infrastructure projects and is modeled off of the, successful and popular, TIFIA program in the transportation sector funded through the Highway Trust Fund. The witness for the AGC-supported Water Infrastructure Network also discussed options for a Clean Water Trust Fund.
AGC, in its statement for the record, pushed an all-of-the-above approach, stressing that predictability and stability in the water and wastewater infrastructure construction markets would be best served by multiple financing mechanisms to ensure long-term funding. AGC will continue its multi-pronged approach to financing water infrastructure as it shepherds these ideas through the legislative process.
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