Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Date: July 27, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would increase the Clear Water State Revolving Fund by $1.41 billion, from $689 million to $2.1 billion, the amount that was appropriated in fiscal year 2010.

All of us recognize the gravity of the financial situation facing this Nation today, and we are struggling to emerge from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Clearly, with the national unemployment rate hovering still around 9 percent and the unemployment rate for the construction sector at over 20 percent, we are far from completing our work.

Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, estimated that the needs of our Nation's aging water infrastructure topped $660 billion. Yet within the FY 2012 Interior appropriations bill, the Republican majority cuts the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the primary source of investment in our wastewater infrastructure, by $1.4 billion compared to FY 2010. Coupled with the severe cuts to the Clean Water SRF in H.R. 1, the FY 2011 continuing resolution, and the attacks on clean water in the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act passed earlier this month, the Republican majority has made it clear that they place no priority--none--on preserving clean water or creating jobs.

In terms of job losses, the cuts in the FY 2012 Interior appropriations bill when compared to FY 2010 funding levels would eliminate over 39,000 direct construction jobs throughout the country and countless additional jobs in the industries and small businesses that support the wastewater construction industry at a time when many small businesses and the construction sector are struggling to recover. Furthermore, this cut undermines longstanding Federal efforts to address our Nation's aging infrastructure systems.

Mr. Chairman, addressing the Nation's debt and deficit should absolutely be a priority; however, we should focus our efforts on finding a balanced approach that focuses on job creation rather than slashing budgets that are proven job creators. We hear repeatedly from our Republican colleagues that we should not tax our job creators. I agree. However, in my district and in districts across the Nation, the environment is the job creator.

The economy of my district depends on clean water, clean air, and safe, swimmable beaches. The cuts in this bill place all of these in jeopardy. If the Republican priorities in this bill prevail, we could put an effective tax rate of zero on small businesses in my district, and it wouldn't help because they would have no income. And no income means no jobs.

Mr. Chairman, the extension of the Bush tax cuts give the average millionaire a $139,100 tax break in 2011. That's a tax break of $2,700 per week or $380 per day. Let me be clear: I'm talking only about tax breaks for millionaires--not tax breaks for the middle class--and only for millionaires, using not the $250,000, but the million.

If our Republican colleagues were to set aside ideology and agree to eliminate the tax breaks for just those millionaires, we could reestablish our commitment to clean water and economic development within 12 days. The Bush tax cuts give millionaires across the Nation such a deal that we could completely shore up the $1.4 billion deficit in the Clean Water SRF and begin to address the needs outlined by Administrator Whitman in less than 2 weeks.

Even if Congress gave the Bill Gates and the Warren Buffetts of this world the Bush tax breaks for the remaining 353 days of the year, we could put tens of thousands of men and women back to work, protect clean water, and protect the economies that depend on clean water and pristine beaches.

Finally, the Republican majority has included in this bill several special interest policy earmarks to pull back on EPA's compliance and enforcement capabilities, making it far more difficult for the agency to identify and pursue serious violations impacting public health and the environment in communities across the Nation. In my view, this proposal stands in stark contrast to the EPA's efforts to increase compliance in critical areas within a limited budget and suggests that a weakened compliance and enforcement presence is somehow better for our Nation. I strongly disagree with that suggestion.

Combine the lackluster funding for the Clean Water SRF and the dozens of special interest policy earmarks, it's quite clear that Republicans have abandoned the decades-long national, bipartisan commitment to creating jobs, protecting public health, and preserving the ability of local communities to grow their economies through clean water projects.

I yield back the balance of my time.