7:49 PM EDT

James Lankford, R-OK 5th

Mr. LANKFORD. As you may know, the Environmental Protection Agency currently administers Clean Water State Revolving Funds and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds to provide low-interest financing through the States. These low-interest loans are a way for States and communities to be able to use their own discretion in making much-needed improvements to their water supplies and infrastructure. This program was a grant program [Page: H5642]

years ago, but was transitioned

into a loan program to save money some 25 years ago.

[Time: 19:50]

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009, an increase in funding for these accounts was coupled with a provision in those two funds, requiring no less than 30 percent of the financed funds issued to be used as principal forgiveness. It was a type of grant program to them. This principal forgiveness changes the low-interest loan program to a direct funding program. It's a hybrid between a loan program now and a grant program.

Since the stimulus expired and funding for these provisions returned to normal levels, unfortunately, the principal forgiveness provision has remained. This bill rolls back to pre-stimulus funding levels, but it doesn't roll back to pre-stimulus Federal strings.

So my amendment removes the Federal mandate of principal forgiveness and allows the States to use their discretion on the amounts they'd like to offer. States will be allowed to provide principal forgiveness up to 30 percent. Communities rely on these funds to ensure their infrastructure security and safe drinking water. By supporting my amendment, you can empower your State to leverage their already limited funds and ensure that communities all across our Nation receive the much needed infrastructure

assistance.

Not to put words in both parties' mouths on this one as well, but there is a very bipartisan focus on this. This is one of the priorities from President Obama. In his budget proposal, he requested the same thing. Also, for conservatives and others, it gives back to the States their rights to be able to make those decisions.

I yield back the balance of my time.

7:51 PM EDT

Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

What the amendment does is create the 30 percent language that we've had in the past, which is a floor, and makes it a ceiling rather than a floor.

The EPA's Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds provide grants to States to capitalize on their revolving loan fund programs. These programs offer low-interest loans to communities for projects included on a State's Intended Use Plan. These low-interest loans are usually below market rates and are used to finance water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

Many small and disadvantaged communities with a low income base can hardly afford to apply for these loans even with the low-interest rates. Therefore, this provision in the base text, which we have had for a few years, would offer zero-interest loans, which are loans that forgive a portion of the principal, or grants, to these disadvantaged communities that would otherwise be unable to afford a standard SRF loan. The provision provides some relief to small communities across the Nation that

are tirelessly working to provide clean and safe drinking water to their residents and bring construction jobs to their communities, all at the same time as they balance their books.

Given the huge infrastructure needs facing this Nation and the crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure, we should be providing more of this assistance, not less. So, while I appreciate my colleague's amendment and share his interest in preserving the viability of the SRFs, I do not support this amendment, and I would urge a ``no'' vote.

I would just say, we've talked about this in the subcommittee for a number of years. One of the real problems we have is we have these State revolving loan funds. We put the money out there, and there are a lot of communities that can't even afford the loans, so it doesn't help them rebuild their water systems or the wastewater treatment facilities. With the standards that we have with arsenic and other things, I have a lot of small communities in Idaho, and it doesn't help them that they have

a State revolving loan fund, because they can't afford it. What this does is help them through that to meet some of the clean water standards that they have to meet.

As I said, what we've carried in the bill before us is that a minimum of 30 percent, or a floor of 30 percent, of those funds have to be used for those types of things. What the gentleman's amendment would do would make that a ceiling in which you could only use 30 percent of that. I oppose the amendment, and hope my colleagues would also.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Lankford).

The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.

7:53 PM EDT

Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. I thank the gentlelady.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn).

The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.