AWWA celebrates Congressional fix to WIFIA
US lawmakers in early December responded to advocacy efforts by AWWA and other water interests by passing legislation that lifts a ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds with loans authorized under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. AWWA is already urging Congress to appropriate funds to allow WIFIA to begin addressing America’s large water infrastructure challenge.
“By removing the ban on using tax-exempt bonds with WIFIA loans, Congress has freed WIFIA to do its important work in addressing America’s enormous water infrastructure challenge,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “We now urge Congress to move swiftly to appropriate the necessary funds for WIFIA to do its important work.”
Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, who was among the leading proponents for WIFIA’s passage and the needed correction, acknowledged the importance of the change from the House floor prior to Thursday’s vote on transportation legislation that carried the WIFIA provision. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, were also key in getting the WIFIA fix included in the transportation bill.
“I am pleased to see a provision included that supplements the funding of public water infrastructure,” said Gibbs, chair of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. “Municipalities across the country are dealing with expensive and necessary improvements to public water systems. The ability to combine WIFIA funding with tax-exempt bonds gives cities and counties the ability to affordably address their public health needs.”
Enacted in 2014 as part of the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, WIFIA will provide low-interest federal loans for up to 49% of the costs for large drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and water reuse projects. However, as written, the law prohibited tax-exempt bonds from funding the remaining 51% of a project, taking away the most cost-effective tool for communities that seek WIFIA loans.
AWWA worked alongside many water sector organizations for the removal of the ban on tax-exempt bonds. Members of AWWA, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation and other water advocates are urging Congress to provide funding for both WIFIA loans and State Revolving Fund programs in 2016.
Questions? Please contact Greg Kail, 303.734.3410, or Deirdre Mueller, 303.347.6140, in the AWWA Communications Department.