FY17 Omnibus bill lifts WIFIA funding


The $1.017 trillion omnibus appropriations bill signed in early May by President Donald Trump finalizes federal agency budgets for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year and removes the immediate threat of a government shutdown. The bill slightly reduces overall EPA appropriations, but also delivers fresh new funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program.

The 1,665-page bill included $8.06 billion for EPA, an amount $81.4 million below the agency’s FY16 funding level. Funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) was maintained at the FY16 levels of $863 million and $1.394 billion, respectively, dollars that an Appropriations Committee statement said will “help improve the safety of drinking water and create jobs in every state.” The bill also included an additional $10 million for the WIFIA program, $2 million of which will support EPA administrative activities and $8 million that will be leveraged to subsidize water infrastructure loans.

Combined with the $20 million that Congress initially set aside for WIFIA in an earlier FY17 spending measure ($17 million of which was required to subsidize loans and $3 million that supported administrative activities), the Appropriations Committee noted WIFIA’s total FY17 appropriation will come to $30 million.

While the omnibus bill largely avoided controversial policy riders, it did include a provision requiring all iron and steel products used on SRF-funded projects be made in the United States, though EPA is granted the authority to waive this requirement in certain cases. Since Congress had previously imposed similar “Buy American” rules on the DWSRF program for the entire 2017 fiscal year, Appropriations Committee staff have told the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) that the provision will not alter the status quo.

The bill also directed EPA to spend nearly $102 million on the Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) program, equal to its FY16 appropriation. Last month AMWA and other water sector groups wrote to Congress in support of maintaining PWSS funding, arguing the program ensures “water utilities have the information, technology, and capabilities to meet their mandated regulatory responsibilities.”

Enactment of the omnibus spending bill ensures the federal government will not shut down before the end of the 2017 fiscal year on September 30. Passage of the measure also clears the way for House and Senate appropriators to turn their attention to crafting their initial FY18 spending bills.

This story appeared in the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ weekly Monday Morning Briefing.

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