WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released the following statement today in response to President Obama’s last budget proposal:
“The president has been using his budget proposals to create a legacy of destroying fossil fuels and reducing our military and influence in the world. His proposals never balance and consistently expose his misguided spending priorities that both parties in Congress have fought to reverse and correct. The president's last budget is nothing new. In fact, it is already being disregarded in Congress as neither the Senate or House Budget Committees will be inviting the OMB Director to testify. Congress will instead move forward on crafting a serious budget that represents the interests of the American people.
“The president’s budget proposal for EPA once again shortchanges basic infrastructure needs while pouring billions into climate boondoggles. This trend has left the agency strapped and unable to properly prevent or address true environmental crises, whether it is the Gold King mine spill in Colorado or the drinking water situation in Flint. It also shows how the president continues to put cities and rural communities and their basic infrastructure needs at the bottom of his priority list. In my committee, we will be examining several aspects of EPA’s proposed budget and how to appropriately fund the agency so that it is focused on its core mission. I intend to specifically examine the state revolving fund programs, which I strongly support and have consistently criticized administrations for failing to give these programs a higher priority. While the president’s proposal provides additional funds for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, it took the media exposing the crisis in Flint to make this happen. Furthermore, the administration does this at the expense of cutting the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by an even greater amount. This is just a shell game. In the coming weeks, my committee will seek to remind the administration of the critical nature of both of these programs and of the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act that provides another tool to help address our nation’s water infrastructure needs.”
The president’s budget proposes a slight increase to the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund by $157 million and more than offsets that increase with a $414 million cut to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Collectively, the president’s budget would cut more than $257 million from the state revolving loan fund accounts.
The president’s budget also proposes a paltry $15 million in funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). This powerful new finance tool was enacted in 2014 and is modeled after the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. It provides financing to rehabilitate crumbling drinking and wastewater treatment facilities, improve storm water management, and enhance waterway infrastructure and storage facilities. An Inhofe amendment to the 2014 Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) strengthened smaller, rural communities chances in competing alongside larger metropolitan cities for financing under WIFIA.