The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill last week that would authorize five years of funding totaling about $35 billion for bond-related state revolving funds - a move that could result in the first authorization for the programs since Bill Clinton's administration.

The committee approved the bill, introduced by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., by a voice vote. It moves now to the Senate. If enacted, it would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to provide $20 billion over five years for the clean water state revolving fund and $14.7 billion over the same time for the drinking water state revolving fund.

More than half of states use the revolving funds to back municipal bonds, according to the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities.

The fund allows states to make low-interest loans to localities for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects. The clean water fund has not been authorized in 22 years, and the drinking water fund has not been authorized since 1996.

Both programs have taken considerable cuts to funding in recent years, although the stimulus act signed into law earlier this year provided them with $6 billion over a two-year period.

"The biggest problem facing our cities is not crime or prostitution, it's unfunded mandates," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee's ranking member. "We're going to address a lot of those with this legislation."

In addition to authorizing five years of funding for the programs, the bill would expand eligibility for the funding to include storm water management, water conservation, reuse, and recycling projects. It also would provide $60 million per year to states and municipalities for lead-reduction water projects.

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