NC Budget and Tax Center

House Budget Picks Up Where Last Year’s Left Off, Finishes Gutting Clean Water Management Trust Fund

Picking up right where the legislature left off last year, the newly-passed House Budget again targets the Clean Water Management Trust Fund with policy changes that will likely gut the long-term effectiveness of the state’s primary capital investment resource for developing clean water infrastructure in North Carolina’s rural communities.

Created in 1996, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund provides significant financial assistance to local governments and nonprofits to aid in strategic water-related infrastructure development and the purchase of riparian land to protect long-term water quality. In the years since inception, the Trust Fund has helped rehabilitate crumbling water/sewer lines, outdated pump stations, and low-capacity storm water systems across rural North Carolina—infrastructure critical for attracting and retaining industry and ensuring vital water-related tourism resources remain pristine and unpolluted.

Overturning state statute and 15 years of precedent, last year’s budget dramatically reduced the biennial appropriation to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, cutting the program’s funding from the $100 million to $11.25 million for both FY2011-12 and FY2012-13.  This represents an 89% cut from the levels previously required by statute and annually appropriated to the program every year since FY1999-2000.

As if cuts of this magnitude were not enough, the House budget took the additional step of converting the clean water fund’s appropriation from a recurring obligation—one that is guaranteed a certain amount of funding in every biennial budget— to a non-recurring obligation, forcing the program to fight for one-time funding in every legislative session.  Over the long-run, this will likely reduce the clean water fund’s appropriation—and capital investments in rural water/sewer systems across the state—even further.

Ultimately, along with losing 89% of its appropriation, forcing the Trust Fund to rely on one-time funds to sustain its grant-making will cripple the program’s capacity to assist rural communities in developing sufficient clean water infrastructure to support both tourism and economic development.   Additionally, given the resulting chronic uncertainty in the fund’s available resources from year to year, local communities will have a much more difficult time planning for their infrastructure development needs—further hampering their ability to attract and retain the industries critical for their long-term recovery.

8 Comments


  1. Doug

    June 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

    As far as I know, no one in NC is going without clean drinking water !

  2. JeffS

    June 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Really Doug? Wells all across the state have been declared unsafe. It’s one thing to not pay attention, but at least have the sense to know that you’re not.

    Environmental regulation and restorative projects exist for a reason. Anyone with a sense of history would understand that. Sadly, that precludes the majority of the voting public – as well as those who know but don’t care.

  3. Doug

    June 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I heard an old politician once say- “If you want to spend some money, then you have to create a problem first “. I think that’s what you have here Jeff, but half the battle is getting folks like you to believe it.

  4. Alex

    June 3, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Jeff probably knows as much as I do about the water situation which is virtually nothing. What he actually objects to is the cutting of government funds to a bureaucratic agency. He subscribes to what I call the “add-on” theory of government which is to keep everything you have now whether it makes any sense or not, and then add on a little more each year. Maybe it makes more sense just to give dollars directly to localities for water projects without having a cumbersome,often political agency to dole out the funds, and run up administrative costs. We may even save some money !

  5. Jack

    June 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

    In fifteen to twenty years water will be a commodity.

  6. david esmay

    June 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

    What Alex knows virtually nothing about is everything. What he subscribes to is the conservative view point, that if something in government works, but you can’t profit from it, or your friends can’t profit from it, dismantle it. Make clean water unavailable through public works, privatize it and sell it to the public.

  7. Frank Burns

    June 4, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Aren’t water treatment facilities a local issue? I see a state agency that is duplicating local water treatment and right of way acquisition. It is appropriate to cut funds for this agency.

  8. Alex

    June 4, 2012 at 10:48 am

    David reminds me of the bully I knew in elementary school who tried to cover up his learning disability with personal attacks !

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