More funding for road improvements and the creation of a program to assist local governments with water infrastructure projects are among the recommendations made by a state Assembly Republican task force this week.
The recommendations were outlined in an infrastructure report released by the task force, which was chaired by Assemblymen Kevin Byrne and Phil Palmesano. The panel toured the state last year and held public hearings in several communities, including Auburn.
The task force called for funding parity between the state Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the agencies' respective five-year capital programs. Assembly Republicans also want to increase base aid for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, an important source of state funding for local highway departments, by $100 million a year over five years.
There are some new concepts included in the infrastructure report. The panel proposed the creation of the Water Infrastructure Investment Program. The program would be similar to the source of funding for bridges and roads, but new program would fund drinking, storm and sewer water infrastructure projects.
Assembly Republicans believe the infrastructure plan would achieve another goal: creating jobs for New Yorkers.
"Let's put New Yorkers to work making sure our school buses pass over sound bridges, our seniors are driving on safe roads and job creators can invest in our communities with confidence," said Assemblyman Gary Finch, who represents the Auburn area.
While the task force highlighted several immediate reforms, the GOP members also want to improve the state's long-term planning and reporting. One of the proposals is requiring the state Department of Transportation to release an annual report detailing the condition of state-owned bridges and roads.
Another directive would require the state DOT to develop a 20- or 30-year long-term transportation plan. And the task force believes it should be mandated that DOT submit its capital plan for approval.
Whether any of the recommendations will be adopted is unclear. Republicans no longer control either chamber, so it will be difficult for Assembly GOP members to advance any of these bills on their own.
Despite their minority status, Assembly Republicans are hopeful that the proposals will be taken seriously.
"The roads, bridges and infrastructure of upstate New York is long overdue for some tender loving care," Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, a Lyons Republican, said in a statement. "It's high time we come together as legislators to treat this issue across all of New York equally."