Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Local Roads Matter"

A bipartisan group of 130 state legislators, organized by State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and representing more than 60% of the Legislature’s entire membership,Wednesday joined county and town highway superintendents and other local leaders from across New York to call for increased state support for local roads, bridges and culverts.
At a news conference in the Capitol, O’Mara, Palmesano and other state
legislators, county and town highway superintendents and other local
leaders called for increasing state funding for the Consolidated Highway
Improvement Program, commonly known as CHIPS, by $250 million to a total of
$688.1 million in the 2016-2017 state budget.  They’re also seeking the
creation of a new, four-year, $600-million “State Aid to Local Bridge and
Culvert Program” to undertake locally designated bridge and culvert
improvement projects statewide.
In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “Across-the-board parity
in transportation funding is a top budget priority this year.  Governor
Cuomo and legislative leaders will be deciding how best to allocate
billions of taxpayer dollars for upstate and downstate transportation
infrastructure and we want to make sure that local roads, bridges and
culverts throughout the state receive an equal and fair share of state
assistance through CHIPS and other investments.  The improvement and repair
of locally maintained roads and bridges in every community across the state
are going unmet year after year even though local motorists keep delivering
billions of dollars in taxes and fees to the state every year that are
supposed to be dedicated to maintaining local roads and bridges.  Local
roads and bridges, in every region of the state, are community and economic
lifelines that are at risk from a severe lack of adequate, dedicated
funding.  A revitalized state commitment to local transportation is a wise
use of taxpayer dollars.  It’s an investment in economic growth, job
creation, property tax relief and motorist safety.”
Local highway superintendents representing every region of the state have
been in Albany this week as part of their annual  “Local Roads Matter”
advocacy campaign.
For the past three years, O’Mara and Palmesano have organized a bipartisan
group of state legislators in the Senate and Assembly, together with county
and town highway superintendents and other local leaders from across New
York, to call for increased state support for local roads, bridges and
culverts through the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS).

During this time, beginning with the 2013-2014 state budget, CHIPS funding,
including a special category of “Winter Recovery” funding for the past two
years, has been increased by approximately $125 million to an overall level
of $438.1 million.  As a result, counties, cities, towns and villages have
seen funding increases.

This year’s “Local Roads Matter” campaign is making the case for an even
stronger state commitment to local roads, bridges and culverts.   With the
property tax cap and shrinking local revenues, the lawmakers argue, CHIPS
funding is absolutely critical to helping local communities and taxpayers –
noting that municipalities own and maintain 87% of the roads in the state,
own and maintain 52% of New York’s 18,000 bridges, and that 48% of the
vehicle miles driven in the state are driven on local roads.

In his 2016-2017 Executive Budget, Cuomo has proposed to maintain this
year’s total CHIPS funding at last year’s level of $438.1 million while
eliminating any additional winter recovery allocation.

The bipartisan coalition of legislators and local highway leaders are also
continuing to stress the need for parity in funding for the five-year MTA
Capital Plan and the statewide five-year DOT Capital Plan.   They note that
under Cuomo’s 2016-17 proposed state budget, the MTA Capital Plan is funded
at $26 billion while the DOT Capital Plan is slated to receive $20 billion.
In a March 8th letter to the governor, legislative leaders and top Cuomo
administration officials, the coalition emphasizes “that equitability,
fairness and parity is essential when funding our state’s infrastructure.
We support and recognize the importance of funding for the five-year MTA
Capital Plan as a critical infrastructure investment that is necessary to
meet the transportation needs of residents, commuters and visitors for our
downstate region.  In addition, we believe just as strongly that funding
for the five-year DOT Capital Plan is a necessary and critical investment
for the residents, motorists and taxpayers of the State of New York,
particularly for our upstate region.  We are one state, with challenging
infrastructure needs statewide, and therefore we believe it is critically
important that the five-year capital plans for the MTA and the DOT should
reflect true parity and equal funding -- as it was always achieved by
previous Governors and legislatures prior to 2010.”

A 2013 study conducted by the town highway superintendents association
reported that New York needs to invest an additional $1.3 billion per year
on local roads and bridges to prevent them from becoming deficient.  An
earlier report from the state comptroller called 32% of New York’s local
bridges deficient and 40% of local roads fair or poor, and getting worse. A
national transportation advocacy group, TRIP, has estimated that
deteriorating roads cost New York motorists nearly an additional $25
billion annually – nearly $2,300 for the average driver in some areas -- in
lost time, fuel costs, vehicle repairs and other expenses.

According to the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of
Highways (NYSAOTSOH) and the State County Highway Superintendents
Association (NYSCHSA), the fees and taxes paid by drivers approach $5
billion annually yet only about $2 billion of these revenues are dedicated
to maintaining the state’s transportation infrastructure.  They argue that
$3 billion that the state annually
collects in motorist fees and taxes, which should be kept in the state’s
Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund, are being diverted to other,
non-transportation related purposes.

In their March 8th letter, the coalition concludes, “We continue to value
your commitment and leadership on this important issue and we ask for your
support as we look ahead to the 2016-17 budget negotiations.  We believe it
is critically important to build on this past success and renew our
commitment to addressing the tremendous, unmet needs and challenges facing
our local roads, bridges and culverts in every region across New York
State.   We believe an even stronger commitment in this year’s final
budget to our locally maintained transportation infrastructure is not only
feasible and justified, but also imperative to realizing our shared
economic, fiscal and community development goals.  Therefore, we are again
proudly joining with our local leaders to urge you to support a multi-year
strategy to address local infrastructure needs in order to help provide our
citizens, local property taxpayers, tourists and motorists with the kind of
local transportation system they need and deserve.”