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It is on the rarest of occasions that I find myself delving into the ultra-sensitive and often opinionated world of politics for the purpose of this column.
But, I am willing to make an exception this month as I feel the water and wastewater industry is not getting a fair deal when it comes to President Bush’s 2005 Budget Plan. Especially during these critical times as cities and states are facing very large expenses when it comes to rebuilding and replacing their deteriorating water infrastructure.
In early February, President Bush proposed a $2.4 trillion election-year budget, which sees funds pour into the military, domestic security and some education and health initiatives, all of which are rational and predictable areas that deserve the proposed funds.
However, I am not too certain about the funds earmarked toward a hugely expensive effort to visit Mars—funds that could certainly be allotted elsewhere, such as the environment, specifically water- and wastewater-related issues.
According to President Bush’s proposal, one of the areas that would suffer from a reduced budget in 2005 would be the Environmental Protection Agency.
President Bush proposed an 8.9% decrease in overall funding for the EPA, which also includes a $492 million reduction in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program that offers low-interest loans to states and communities for water pollution control projects.
In concert with the CWSRF cutback, it has been reported that an additional $335 million would also be cut from allocations to local governments to improve wastewater, stormwater and drinking water facilities. In comparison, the 2004 budget invoked by President Bush provided $429 million to these same areas.
One state that would be hit hard by President Bush’s proposed cuts would be Wisconsin. If the budget were approved, it could affect Wisconsin’s rural water and wastewater programs to the tune of $199 million, as funding would be reduced to $346 million down from $545 million.
Despite the gloomy outlook for the water and wastewater industry, hope can be found in the fact that none of the proposals and cuts mentioned above are set in stone when it comes to the President’s 2005 budget. Ultimately, Congress has the final say.
The water and wastewater industry can expect Congress to restore some, if not most of Bush’s proposed cuts in water- and wastewater-related programs.
Historically, it is rare that a president’s proposed budget follows the initial projections—essentially, it is a design-build budget that can, and will, be improvised throughout the year and the funding levels should end up at or near the levels seen in 2004.