By Melanie Condon
It may have been a frigid winter day in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, when President Obama signed the bill to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2014, but the ice was already starting to melt on certain state-federal programs that have seen years of budget stagnation. NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee produced an analysis highlighting some of these programs and others that are related to agriculture, energy, environment and transportation issues.
Of particular note in the analysis is the funding improvements made to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Over the years, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) has provided more than $89 billion in low-interest loans and funding for programs related to water quality protection, nonpoint source pollution control and wastewater treatment. For FY 2014 the Consolidated Appropriations Act provided $1.5 billion for the CWSRF. This is not only an increase of $73 million above the FY 2013 post sequestration level, but also an increase above the president’s FY 2014 request of $1.1 billion. Additionally, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), which makes funds and loans available to drinking water systems to finance infrastructure improvements, was increased to $907 million, $46 million above FY 2013 and $90 million more than the president’s FY 2014 request.
In a tough time of fiscal uncertainty, many state-federal programs received reductions in federal funds for FY 2014, but these programs actually saw a boost. NCSL strongly supports the state revolving funds as an integral tool used for providing clean, drinkable, swimmable water to the public at large, and in the past has urged the federal government for more flexibility in administering the funds.
The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the wastewater infrastructure of our country at a D in the 2013 version of their annual infrastructure report card. Therefore, any boost in funding for the states to be able to assist in necessary water infrastructure upgrades is always encouraged.
The Weatherization Assistance Program also saw an increase for FY 2014; $109 million over FY 2013. The program provides funds to states to be used in the improvement of energy performance in homes of low-income families. Additionally, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program saw a $169 million increase from FY 2013, and allows states to provide home energy assistance to low-income households throughout the year.
For additional information on funds for natural resources and infrastructure programs in the FY 2014 budget, please see the NRI Committee Budget Analysis.
Melanie Condon is an NCSL policy associate working with the Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee.