A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Hearing on “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority”
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 continues an unfortunate trend of under-investing in our Nation’s water resources. Many of the Army Corps of Engineers activities that we are examining are investments in America. For nearly two centuries, the Corps has contributed to the economic vitality of the Nation and has improved our quality of life. This Administration keeps missing the opportunity to use the civil works program as an investment in our country’s future.
This Administration, time and time again, has not put the same priority in the Corps programs as Congress has. Congress and the Administration both need to be supportive of programs that have a proven record of providing economic benefits.
The FY 2016 budget request by the Administration for the Corps of Engineers is $4.7 billion, almost $750 million less than what was appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2015. This is even more unfortunate given the strong bipartisan message sent last Congress by the enactment of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.
Congress made a conscious effort in WRRDA 2014 to enhance America’s competiveness by strengthening investments in the Nation’s water resources infrastructure, including ramping up Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund expenditures for their intended purposes. But, again, the President’s budget proposes to spend only $915 million out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for operation and maintenance activities in FY 2016 – half of what is estimated to be collected in FY 2015. These harbor maintenance taxes are paid by shippers for the purpose of maintaining America’s ports.
While this Administration is not the first to shortchange America’s water transportation system, requesting only half of what was collected will not keep up with a growing demand on our ports.
Budgets are about priorities. A priority of any administration should be to put the United States at a competitive advantage in world markets, especially since world trade patterns are expected to be dramatically different when the Panama Canal expansion becomes operational in April 2016.
Additionally, when Congress enacted WRRDA 2014, there were several big-ticket items included in that law. Provisions related to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, permit processing, project streamlining, WIFIA, public-private partnerships, and deauthorization of old and inactive projects were included in the law that was signed by the President in June 2014.
While the WRRDA law was transformative and at times complicated, we remain disappointed at the pace and the prioritization at which the Corps of Engineers is carrying out the drafting of the implementation guidance.
As we are rapidly approaching the one-year anniversary of the enactment of WRRDA 2014, we would hope and expect the Corps would put more of a priority in writing the implementation guidance. After all, WRRDA is the law of the land – it is not a suggestion for the Administration to casually disregard.
I am also very pleased that the Subcommittee will hear about the Tennessee Valley Authority’s budget. I want to welcome TVA’s President, Bill Johnson, who will be testifying for the first time before the Subcommittee.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is the nation’s largest wholesale power producer and fifth largest electric utility company. While TVA’s power and non-power programs have been funded through its revenues since 2001 – meaning they receive no appropriated funds – we are concerned with the agency’s overall financial health since the agency carries a rather large debt load. I anticipate that we will hear more about TVA’s debt reduction plan today, especially in light of Mr. Johnson’s impressive track record of reducing costs.
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