Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — NACWA held a private meeting with senior White House officials on October 12 to discuss the contours of the Administration’s planned infrastructure package, including opportunities for public clean water utilities. This followed a broader water sector meeting, hosted by the White House on October 10, in which a number of NACWA utility members participated.
The October 12 discussion allowed NACWA to engage with key architects of the White House’s infrastructure agenda. NACWA highlighted the importance of water playing a central role in any infrastructure package, and also outlined the particular challenges that municipal clean water utilities face when dealing with affordability issues. The White House officials were receptive to these concerns, and were particularly interested in how a combination of additional federal infrastructure dollars and regulatory reforms might help local utilities address affordability challenges.
Administration officials confirmed during the meeting that their intent is to make federal funds available to entities – including public clean water utilities – that come to the table with a proposed project and some level of funding for the project already identified. One example of this approach, which NACWA discussed with White House staff, could include a utility that is raising project funding through increased rates, but is also approaching the Federal Government for a grant that could be used to establish a low-income ratepayer assistance program—this would help offset the rate increases for certain segments of the rate-base facing severe affordability challenges.
NACWA also confirmed during the meeting that the Administration does not plan to move forward with an infrastructure package until work on tax reform is completed. Given that tax reform progress may prove slow, it seems increasingly unlikely that the White House will address infrastructure in a comprehensive manner until the beginning of 2018, at the earliest. And whatever is ultimately proposed will be significantly influenced by Congress, which is why NACWA continues extensive infrastructure discussions with Capitol Hill. However, NACWA believes the infrastructure approach being contemplated by the White House could bring important benefits to the public clean water sector.