Statement on Clean Water State Revolving Fund

i thank the gentleman for TimeCode: 10:52:37.2 yielding, the chairman of the committee. who has done such an extraordinary job for decades now in taking care of the environment and particularly providing for clean water and sewer treatment for our country so critical to our public health and to the health of our TimeCode: 10:52:54.3 country. i want to at the outset, however, make an observation. that i am not surprised very frankly, i tell my friends on the other side of the aisle, that they are concerned about davis-bacon provisions in this bill. TimeCode: 10:53:09.5 after all, of course, most of those who have risen voted against raising the minimum wage in this country from $5.15 to $7.25 over a 2 1/2 year period. TimeCode: 10:53:24.0 if you don't believe in raising the minimum wage from $5.15, not surprising to me you're not for paying a prevailing wage to workers on public projects. i have observed in the past, of course, how much cheaper projects would be if we didn't TimeCode: 10:53:41.1 pay our laborers at all. we just force them to work. hopefully we will not pursue ever a policy like that. i want to commend the chairman of the transportation and infrastructure committee, mr. oberstar of minnesota, for all of his hard work and leadership TimeCode: 10:53:57.7 on this important legislation re-authorizing the clean water state revolving fund for the first time in 13 years. it's interesting that our friends on this side of the aisle have been in charge of this congress in bringing TimeCode: 10:54:12.7 legislation to the floor for the last 12 years. so since they took charge they have not re-authorized this program. again, not because of the observations, as has been pointed out, they didn't think we needed to have a clean water TimeCode: 10:54:28.3 program, but because they didn't want to pay the prevailing wages. i want to thank chairman oberstar for his leadership and i want to thank my dear friend, eddie bernice johnson, of texas for her very important leadership as well. TimeCode: 10:54:45.6 as you know we have passed two other bills this week re-authorizing sewer overflow control grants. h.r. 569 and h.r. 700. they related to combined sewer TimeCode: 10:55:01.9 overflow grants to states for aging sewers. we know that's a problem throughout this country. that handles storm water and sewage water, and h.r. 700 which is a pilot project for TimeCode: 10:55:14.2 getting clean water to rural communities. we know that we focus on urban communities, but it's very important for us to also make sure that our rural communities have clean water. i believe that this bill as has been indicated has bipartisan TimeCode: 10:55:31.7 support. notwithstanding the difference on prevailing wage. mr. speaker, the fact is a clean, safe water supply is vital in communities both large and small, rural and urban, all across this nation. we are not talking about a luxury, a perk, or nonnecessity TimeCode: 10:55:47.6 . clean water, safe water is absolutely indispensable to the good health of all americans as well as our way of life and continued prosperity. just consider, my colleagues, that our nation's farmers and TimeCode: 10:56:02.5 fishermen and manufacturing and tourism industries rely on a clean water supply. their acts contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy every year. our nation as has been pointed out now faces a clean water TimeCode: 10:56:17.7 crisis. as the environmental protection agency warned in a recent report, i'm quoting, from the administration's environmental protection agency, quote, without continued improvements in wastewater treatment infrastructure, future population growth will erode TimeCode: 10:56:31.9 away many of the clean water act achievements. and i want to congratulate mr. baker and mr. oberstar for their leadership in trying to confront this crisis. one key reason for the clean water crisis is much of the water infrastructure in our TimeCode: 10:56:47.8 nation is rapidly approaching or already exceeding its projected life. so i'm proud today, mr. speaker, that the new house majority with the support of many republicans will take an important step toward addressing our nation's water needs by re-authorizing the clean water state revolving TimeCode: 10:57:04.9 fund and authorizing $14 billion over the next four years to ensure safe water for our families and for our people. i congratulate both sides of the aisle working towards that objective. the fund is the primary source of federal funding for clean TimeCode: 10:57:21.0 water, helping to provide low-interest loans to local communities for construction of wastewater treatment facilities and other water pollution abatement projects. in fact, since 1987 when the fund became the major federal source of clean water funding, it has provided states with TimeCode: 10:57:38.4 more than $50 billion for more than 18,600 low-interest loans to local communities. the unfortunate truth is the congress' -- recent congresses TimeCode: 10:57:55.3 allowed the clean water state revolving fund to expire in 1994, and failed to re-authorize it because, as i have said, and as we have seen on the floor, the concern about davis-bacon, the concern about paying prevailing wage, wages that i think are fair and TimeCode: 10:58:11.1 appropriate for public projects. in recent years the former majority cut funding for the funds involved in this project by 34%. and the president has proposed cutting it even further. mr. speaker, it is a new day in TimeCode: 10:58:27.4 this the people's house, it is long past time for us to act on this important legislation. the new house majority is absolutely committed under the leadership of jim oberstar, who has been one of the giants on this issue, for, as i said, TimeCode: 10:58:43.8 decades, not days, not weeks, not months, not years, but decades he has been in the leadership of this effort. i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in a bipartisan way to re-authorize this critically important piece TimeCode: 10:58:58.6 of legislation. i yield back the balance of my time.