The House Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee only appropriating $5 million for Lewis & Clark Regional Water System in the FY11 Budget on July 14 is proving to disappointing to the water system's planners.
Congress approved $27 million for Lewis & Clark in FY09, but that amount was reduced to $10 million in FY10 (after the House had proposed $6 million and the Senate $16 million) due to the "stimulus funding offset." Lewis & Clark received $56.5 million in stimulus funding in FY10. The federal government provides 80 percent of the funding for the project, while the states and 20 local cities and rural water systems provide the remaining 20 percent.
"This is extremely disappointing," said Lewis & Clark Regional Water System Chairman Red Arndt from Luverne, MN. "The House subcommittee's amount is $1 million less than they approved last year when there was an "offset" due to the stimulus funding Lewis & Clark received. This year we didn't get any stimulus funding and the number is even less. Only getting $5 million would bring new construction to a complete stop. No question about it. After hammering down the accelerator with stimulus funding, $5 million would be like slamming on the brakes.
"In many cases, cutting spending saves the taxpayers money. In this case, it will cost the taxpayers more because the federal government is required by law to provide another $193.1 million to the project," he said. "That remaining balance increases each year for inflation (annual inflation has averaged 5.5 percent since construction began in 2004), so only appropriating $5 million doesn't even keep up with inflation. Taxpayers lose money in the deal, not to mention waiting longer to address critical water needs.
"A law was passed creating obligations by all the partners to fund the Lewis & Clark project (PL 106-246). By pre-paying their share of the project, the local partners and the three states have held up their end of the bargain, while the federal government is coming up woefully short on their end of the deal. If this were a credit card bill, the states and members have pre-paid their share in full, but the federal government isn't even covering the minimum amount due, thinking it is saving money. If this is how the federal government saves money, the taxpayers cannot afford any more saving."
"Lewis & Clark is fortunate to have always had strong support by our elected officials. I look forward to working with them to make sure this funding level is increased as the funding process continues to move forward this year," said Arndt.