If Congress approves President Obama's $50 billion plan to build or repair 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of railways, and 150 miles of runways, another Congressional wish-list item also would finally become reality: an infrastructure bank that would leverage federal dollars to finance local transportation programs.
But the proposal doesn't include water treatment and pipe projects — an about-face from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which allocated $6 billion to water infrastructure.
The water industry feels its resources will be better spent supporting established programs such as state revolving loans than a political hot potato like the White House plan.
“While transportation is important, our water systems — although out of sight — cannot be overlooked,” says David LaFrance, executive director of the American Water Works Association.
The bank would borrow money through the federal treasury system at low rates. Obama has not offered details about how the bank would be funded, although he has acknowledged that it would be funded partly by eliminating incentives for the oil and gas industry as well as levying taxes on overseas profits.
“Because the bank would issue loans — not grants — it would have minimal impact on the federal budget and would require no new taxes. It's a fresh, sustainable approach to financing our nation's aging water infrastructure problem,” LaFrance adds.