(May 7, 2019) - Congressional work continues this week to advance federal spending bills for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), which starts October 1. The House Appropriations Committee announced how it will divide up total discretionary federal spending across the 12 spending bills, and early indications are there will be a strong 4.5% increase to the overall Interior-Environment spending which includes EPA’s budget.
The fact the House is proposing increases to EPA funding – which will likely result in increases to key clean water programs – is a testament to the hard work of NACWA members in advocating for more federal investment. Utility congressional engagement through events like Water Week and individual meetings with congressional members play a critical role in elevating water as a priority with Congress and national policy-makers. NACWA thanks its members for their hard work in advancing this message.
The “subcommittee totals” outlined by the House Appropriations Committee are expected to be formally approved by the Committee on Wednesday, May 8. This development will allow the Committee’s 12 subcommittees to move ahead with drafting and moving the 12 federal spending bills through the Committee.
Each of the subcommittee bills focuses on specific agencies/issues; the most relevant for NACWA members include: the Interior-Environment bill, which funds EPA and the Department of Interior; the Energy-Water bill, which funds the Department of Energy and the Army Corps Civil Works; and the Agriculture bill, which funds the Natural Resources Conservation Service, among others. The subcommittees will work toward a goal of passing all 12 bills out of the full House Appropriations Committee by the end of May.
An increase in the 4-5% range for the Interior-Environment bill would likely allow for increased spending on core EPA programs that impact clean water. NACWA already submitted the Association’s funding priorities to the Committee and will continue working with Congress to encourage strong federal investment, including for the State Revolving Funds, Sewer overflow/Stormwater Grants, WIFIA, Water Workforce Programs, and more.
While the proposed House funding increase is an important development, it is just the next step in a drawn-out annual process. In the absence of agreement across Congress on total spending levels—there is currently no FY20 federal budget deal in effect—the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are drafting their bills to meet different total spending limits.
While the Democrat-controlled House decided last month to draft their bills to reach a total discretionary federal spending limit just shy of $1.3 trillion, the Republican-controlled Senate has not yet determined their preferred total spending—and it is highly unlikely they will use the House totals. More likely, they may keep total federal discretionary spending level from last year (FY19) as they draft their bills.
Whenever Congress reaches a budget agreement—which many hope will be before the start of the 2020 fiscal year on October 1—the House and Senate versions of each of the 12 bills will need to be reconciled in line with agreed-upon total spending. Because the House and Senate spending bills will reflect differing priorities, reconciliation may be difficult. However, both parties are eager to avoid repeating the damaging partial-government shutdown of earlier this year, and so eventual agreement is expected.
NACWA will contline to closely monitor progress and keep a focus on clean water priorities. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA Legislative Director to discuss further.