Bipartisan Breakthrough on Infrastructure Announced, Path Forward Uncertain
Prospects for an infrastructure deal began to solidify late last week with an announcement between the White House and a bipartisan group of 21 Senators on June 24th that a deal had been struck on an infrastructure package.
An initial framework was released which highlighted top line funding priorities and levels. For water, the framework suggests $55 billion for clean and drinking water, along with $5 billion for western water storage and $47 billion for resilience, some of which could go toward helping water systems prepare for natural hazards and climate change.
While this marks a significant bipartisan achievement and a promised influx of funding, NACWA has cautioned Congress that – if taken over multiple years as suggested in the framework – these numbers are not on par with the transformative levels of investment needed by the public clean water sector and which were proposed earlier in the year.
Over the past week, few additional details have emerged. In talking to Congressional offices closely involved in developing the framework, NACWA is hearing a hopeful timeline of drafting a legislative package that will be in line with the framework over the coming several weeks, which could then be passed by the Senate and from there head to the House and then to President Biden for signature.
However, that timeline may prove too ambitious. Congressional leaders and the White House batted comments back and forth in the press over the past week that suggested the strategy on both this proposal, and a potential additional spending deal through the Budget Reconciliation process, are far from solidified.
NACWA continues to dialogue with congressional staff about these developments, and we are hopeful to have more clarity following the July 4th holiday. In the interim, NACWA continues to advocate that any final infrastructure deal should place water on par with other critical infrastructure sectors, as part of our ongoing Affordable Water, Resilient Communities campaign. NACWA also emphasizes that any final package should contain actual appropriation of dollars, not just authorizations for spending, and that as much of the money as possible should go out as grants.