GOP Leaders in Congress to Postpone FY2017 Spending Decisions

Republican leaders in the House and Senate announced last week they will delay final decisions on FY2017 appropriations bills until the spring and will consider a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government operating until March 31. According to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the decision could have negative implications for EPA’s plans to begin offering loans through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) pilot procapitol-building-washingtongram in early 2017.

Though the 2017 fiscal year began on Oct. 1, to date Congress has only enacted one of the 12 appropriations bills required to fund the government. In September, Congress voted to extend FY2016 funding levels through Dec. 9, with the expectation that lawmakers would finalize an FY2017 appropriations plan during a post-election “lame duck” session.

But Donald Trump’s surprise victory on Election Day, combined with Republican control of the House and Senate, changed the calculus on Capitol Hill.

Now, rather than having to compromise with President Obama on FY2017 funding levels before the end of the year, congressional Republicans can pass a CR to wait out his term and then develop a final FY2017 appropriations plan with the new Trump Administration in the spring. The CR plan outlined by House and Senate GOP leaders last week would extend current FY2016 spending levels through March 31, 2017.

Two versions of FY2017 EPA spending bills considered earlier this year in the House and Senate each would have substantially boosted funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program while also providing EPA with dollars to begin offering loans under WIFIA.

But WIFIA in particular could suffer under a CR, as EPA’s final FY2016 budget included no funding for WIFIA loans. As a result, another straight extension of FY2016 appropriations into next year would also lack WIFIA funding and prevent EPA from offering WIFIA loans for the duration of the CR unless funding was delivered through another avenue such as the WRDA legislation that is also under discussion on Capitol Hill.

AMWA is in the process of reaching out to congressional appropriators in support of adding WIFIA funds to the CR, but reports have indicated that most additional funding that could be tacked on to the bill would likely go to support overseas military efforts.

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