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AWWA Fly-In Attendees Lobby to "Free WIFIA" from Tax-Exempt Bond Prohibition

AWWAThe annual American Water Works Association's "Water Matters! Fly-In" event brought about 130 water leaders from 47 states to Capitol Hill in mid-March. The group focused its efforts on persuading members of Congress to increase the effectiveness of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) by repealing a ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds in WIFIA-funded projects. "The authorization of WIFIA in 2014 was a huge accomplishment. Our efforts this year are intended to make WIFIA a viable funding option when traditional options are not available or are less attractive," says Nate Weisenburger, AE2S Operations Manager and Montana Section of AWWA Delegate, who has attended the Water Matters! Fly-In in D.C. for 10 of the past 11 years.

“Let’s free WIFIA to reach its full potential,” says AWWA CEO David LaFrance in a news release. “The water and wastewater infrastructure needs in the United States will likely top two trillion over the next 25 years, and WIFIA is an important tool to help communities manage those costs. But the prohibition on the use of tax-exempt bonds is an unnecessary barrier that impairs WIFIA’s effectiveness.” WIFIA was enacted to provide low-interest federal loans for up to 49 percent of large drinking water, wastewater, water reuse, and stormwater projects. However, the way WIFIA is written, the law prohibits tax-exempt bonds from funding the remaining 51 percent, taking away a cost-effective tool for communities that seek WIFIA loans. If the ban is repealed, utilities would likely use lower-cost tax-exempt debt for the non-WIFIA share of project costs, reducing the overall cost of using the WIFIA program. As a result, WIFIA would be a cost-effective option for the much broader range of projects it was intended to fund.

Fly-In attendees also asked their respective Congressional delegates to support full funding for WIFIA and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, as well as protecting the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds.

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