Tell Congress It’s Time to Fix Our Water Systems!
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Flint, Michigan is on everyone’s mind these days, since its drinking water was found to be contaminated with lead. But how about Sebring, OH? Washington, DC? Durham and Greenville, NC? All of these cities and scores more have suffered similar crises due to corrosion in lead pipes which, in many parts of this country, are well over 100 years old.
Much of our nation’s infrastructure has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced. It’s very likely that this includes your local water infrastructure. Sadly, it all comes down to money: recent studies show that $729 billion in infrastructure improvements are needed over the next 20 years in order to meet safe drinking water and sanitation standards.
As an attorney who has worked in Washington, DC for over 40 years to secure government funds to fix our highways and bridges, I can tell you -- that money is harder to come by than ever. So we have begun using Private Activity Bonds (PABs), a form of tax-exempt financing that encourages government entities to collaborate with private investors to meet a public need. These public-private partnerships have led to great infrastructure improvements, created countless jobs, and generated millions of dollars in revenue. So why is there a federally-mandated cap on the use of PABs when – and only when – they’re used to finance water infrastructure investment projects?
This cap is arbitrary, and it is costing us our health. We must call on Congress to pass the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act now, so we can remove these obstacles to water infrastructure improvement.
This bipartisan legislation would amend the IRS code to open up private investment in our water systems. PABs free government dollars for allocation to other troubled areas of the economy, and transfer risk away from the public.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations, backs the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act because of its incredible potential to bolster our economy: every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure generates up to $3.46 billion of total national output and $82.4 million in state and local tax revenue, and supports 28,500 jobs. It would be a win for our infrastructure, our environment, and our economy.
Exceptions from the PAB cap already exist for other governmentally-owned facilities such as airports, ports, high-speed intercity rail, and solid waste disposal sites. The results have been fantastic, and any fear that this would lead to a private takeover of these public works has been entirely unfounded. There is absolutely no reason an exception shouldn’t exist for our crumbling pipes, wells and reservoirs, too.
Please join me in urging Congress to pass the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act, so we may reinvigorate our economic vitality and protect public health.
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