The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has cleared a bill that would authorize $20 billion over five years in federal aid to Clean Water State Revolving Funds. But the bill may run into problems because of a provision that would require Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wages for projects the bill funds.
The legislation, approved March 20 by voice vote, authorizes $2 billion in fiscal 2003 for Clean Water SRFs. Funding would rise by $1 billion a year, topping out at $6 billion in fiscal 2007. The program's appropriation for 2002 is $1.35 billion.
The House panel bill's funding levels still would be subject to annual appropriations.
The committee added an amendment offered by Reps. Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) that would require projects funded by the SRFs to be covered by Davis-Bacon. The amendment had the strong backing of committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska.). It also was supported by construction labor unions but opposed by the Associated Builders & Contractors. The committee cleared it by voice vote.
But Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned that with the Kelly-Tauscher-DeFazio amendment attached, the measure would be blocked from further consideration. With the amendment, "This bill comes to a screeching halt," he said.
Rogers offered an alternative that would narrow the projects to be covered by Davis-Bacon, but his proposal was defeated.
Ken Kirk, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, says that with the higher funding levels and large federal commitment to the Clean Water program, the bill is "an important first step." Compared with the funding levels of the past several years, he says, "This is a sea change...."
In the Senate, a bill introduced on Feb. 15 by fisheries, wildlife and water subcommittee Chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.) would authorize $20 billion over five years for Clean Water SRFs plus $15 billion in that span for drinking water SRFs. There has been no committee action on Graham's bill yet, other than a hearing. An Environmental Protection Agency official testified that the administration feels the funding level in Graham's proposal is too high.
The House committee's bill doesn't deal with the drinking water SRFs because that program is under the jurisdiction of the House Commerce Committee.