The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) honored former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan with the 2004 We Dig America Award.
The award was presented during NUCA’s National Awards Dinner at the 2005 Washington Summit and Committee/Board Meetings, May 17 in Arlington, VA.
The honor is bestowed upon a non-member who has made a significant contribution on the national level to the industry and/or association. The achievement must have national impact and/or the recipient must have national stature.
Kernan spearheaded a campaign urging the nation’s governors to sign a letter requesting full funding of the Clean Water SRF in Senate legislation.
“Gov. Kernan’s initiative to relay the concerns of several of the nation’s governors regarding cuts to clean water financing was essential to NUCA’s effort to restore water infrastructure funding,” said Bill Hillman, NUCA CEO. “This support helped us slice a $500-million cut in half.”
When the Bush Administration’s proposed $500-million cut to the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program was matched by the House VA-HUD appropriations subcommittee, NUCA was in an uphill battle to restore level SRF funding to $1.35 billion in FY 2005.
Although NUCA and the Clean Water Council were working senate offices every day, the situation was looking bleak when subcommittee chairman Kit Bond, R-MO, indicated that he might not be able to restore the money to the SRF next year.
That’s when Kernan took action. The governor authored a letter signed on by 30 more of the nation’s governors urging the Senate to “maintain at least level funding of $1.35 billion for federal fiscal year 2005 for this critical health and environmental protection program.”
The bipartisan letter went on to say that the proposed cuts to the loan program would be unacceptable. NUCA and several other groups helped circulate this letter to build support for restoring the funding.
Citing this letter as key to its decision, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to restore $1.35 billion in funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
Although the fight goes on for final passage of the bill, Kernan’s efforts were front and center in the Senate victory. Unfortunately, when the omnibus bill was passed, the SRF received $1.1 billion in funding, a decrease over 2004 of $250,000 million.
In 1996, Frank O’Bannon and Kernan were elected to the top positions in the Indiana government, governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. The O’Bannon-Kernan team was elected to a second term in 2000. On Sept. 13, 2003, Kernan was sworn in as Indiana’s 48th governor following O’Bannon’s untimely death.
Kernan lost his re-election bid in November 2004.
Before serving as lieutenant governor, Kernan was elected mayor of South Bend, IN, in 1987, 1991 and again in 1995. He is the longest serving mayor in the city’s history.
Based in Arlington, VA, the National Utility Contractors Association comprises 44 chapters of local underground utility construction contractors and suppliers throughout the United States. NUCA’s nearly 2,000 members provide the materials and workforce to advance the water, sewer, gas, telecommunications and construction site development industries.