Is a $250 million bond authorization to help cities and towns improve their water and sewer infrastructure an appropriate expenditure for the Commonwealth?
That question will be before the state Senate’s Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, which will be the next body to review new legislation designed to help cities and towns improve their drinking and wastewater systems.
Senate Bill 1947, originally filed in October as Senate Bill 1880, was reported favorably by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in November and sent to the Senate Bonding Committee upon being filed on December 3.
The Environment Committee injected a potential $450 million in state funding behind the bill, which was introduced in October by Senator James Eldridge with the backing of Senate President Therese Murray. As proposed in the bill, $250 million in borrowing would be authorized for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, and up to $200 million in capital gains tax revenue would go into a fund for water and sewer infrastructure, rather than into the state’s stabilization fund.
A hearing before the Senate Bond Committee, chaired by Senator Brian Joyce of Milton, is expected in January. Other committee members are vice chair John Keenan of Quincy, Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston, Michael Moore of Millbury, Kenneth Donnelly of Arlington, and Donald Humason of Westfield.
The state legislature will take up an expanded Senate bill designed to help cities and towns improve their drinking and wastewater systems, following committee action that buoyed the proposed legislation with significantly more potential funding.
Late last month, the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture recommended a revised version of Senate Bill 1880 that would make up to $450 million in state funding available for water and sewer projects, State House News Service reported. The money would come from $250 million authorized to be borrowed for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, and $200 million from capital gains revenues.
State House News reported that the bill calls for 25 percent of the capital gains taxes collected in excess of $1 billion, which would otherwise go into reserves, to be put toward three new revolving funds. The water pollution and water infrastructure funds would get up to $80 million each, and drinking water up to $40 million.
The committee bill retained several measures from the original version introduced in October by Senate President Therese Murray, Senator James Eldridge and others. These include:
- A $50 million increase in the annual amount that municipalities could borrow from the state’s Water Pollution Abatement Trust, reduced interest rates for eligible applicants, and a WPAT principal loan forgiveness program
- Incentives for communities to join the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, including the state paying half of the $5 million fee
- A local option for cities and towns to create “water banks” through fees charged to developers to cover environmental mitigation costs associated with supplying water to new developments
The legislature is expected to take up Senate Bill 1880 early next year.
Meanwhile, an environmental bond bill filed by Governor Deval Patrick, which also proposes additional funding for water infrastructure, remains before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.