In the News  Archive

Infrastructure funding: Water, sewer improvements good uses for $5 billion windfall

March 10, 2015
Watertown Daily Times

When it comes to governmental spending, there is no shortage of ideas about how to use additional funds.

New York state will have a $5.4 billion windfall this year from settlements with financial services companies. Naturally, every conceivable voice with an interest in budgetary matters has been heard on where a portion of these funds should go. The latest proposal came from representatives of several environmental groups, who have requested that $800 million be used to upgrade the state water and sewer systems.

“A new report from a coalition of four groups says the state faces an infrastructure crisis if it doesn’t invest in upgrades and repairs of drinking water and wastewater systems throughout the state,” according to an Associated Press story Friday in the Watertown Daily Times. “As an immediate step, the group proposed using $800 million from the state’s $5 billion windfall from financial settlements.”

The four groups are the Adirondack Council, Environmental Advocates, League of Conservation Voters and Riverkeeper.

“The state’s environmental department says New York needs at least $36 billion to repair and upgrade wastewater systems over the next 20 years,” according to the story. “Another report estimates that the state faces $22 billion in drinking water needs.”

This is a reasonable proposal that lawmakers should seriously consider. On this page, we have pointed out that funds from these settlements are one-time payments and should be used for one-time expenditures.

Using this money for purposes requiring annual funding would not be practical. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner want some of the money to go to public schools to lengthen the school day, expand summer school, and boost science and technology.

But this revenue won’t be available next year, so focusing on projects that don’t need recurring payments is the best option. Capital improvement projects, such as the ones advocated for by these environmental groups, are in keeping with this objective. But lawmakers should make sure that selecting items to be funded is done in an equitable manner.

While outlining his budget this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed using $3.9 billion for the Tappan Zee Bridge, $1.3 billion for the Thruway and $3 billion for loans and grants to make infrastructure upgrades. These are sensible recommendations on how to use these one-time funds. Let’s hope, however, that at least some of the money is allocated for projects north of the Thruway.

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