By JOHN JORDAN
ALBANY—While Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers continue to negotiate a final budget deal before the April 1st deadline, the state’s heavy highway sector should reap the benefits of a state government that has a keen focus on investing in its infrastructure.
At press time, Gov. Cuomo continues his push for the State Legislature to enact a mandatory $15-minimum-wage with most Senate Republicans expressing disfavor with the proposal while Assembly Democrats have for the most part supported the minimum wage hike.
While there is still bickering and disagreement over some key issues, one thing appears certain, Gov. Cuomo’s five-year $22.1-billion multi-year funding program for the state DOT highway and bridge programs has garnered widespread support from both sides of the political aisle. There is also significant support for the governor’s multi-year $26-billion funding plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Steve Morgan, secretary-treasurer of the New York Roadway & Infrastructure Coalition, told CONSTRUCTION NEWS that as lawmakers convene to finalize the 2016-2017 state budget, neither party is proposing cutting the governor’s five-year DOT capital program. “It’s been somewhat of a love fest about the importance of and the need for infrastructure funding both transit and highways,” Morgan said, adding that Gov. Cuomo has expressed his support for additional transportation and transit funding if the State Legislature can find sources to fund those higher appropriations.
“The atmosphere and discussion has been much better than we have seen in many, many years,” Morgan said. He predicts that the budget will pass prior to the April 1 deadline and if some contested issues, such as paid leave or the $15-minimum wage, cannot be resolved prior to the deadline, those proposals will pulled from the final budget.
The State Senate has proposed adding $3.5 billon in funding above the governor’s $22.1-billion plan to have the highway and bridge program better align with the $26.1-billion MTA transit plan.
Other items of interest in the ongoing budget negotiations:
- The Assembly and the Senate have rejected the governor’s proposal to transfer the New York State Canal Corp. from the New York State Thruway Authority to the New York Power Authority. The Assembly has proposed to direct a transfer of $70 million from NYPA to the Thruway Authority, however.
- The Assembly calls for the reprogramming of $405 million of state settlement funds, including $390 million from the Thruway Authority, into the five-year DOT capital program to increase the governor’s proposal as follows: $250 million over four years for non-MTA downstate and upstate transit systems; $100 million over four years for rail projects; and $55 million over four years for aviation, which will more than triple the size of the Air99 program and provide funding for at least 55 airports, compared to five airports in the governor’s proposal.
- The Assembly also identified a number of projects to be funded with existing appropriations, including the long-delayed improvements to Exit 131 adjacent to Woodbury Common Factory Outlet Center in Orange County and conversion of the Sheridan Expressway into a boulevard and establishing new connections to the Bronx River waterfront.
NYSDOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll is expected to release a list of projects that would be funded over the next five years prior to the April 1st deadline.
The NYSDOT commissioner told reporters after an appearance before the New York Building Congress earlier this month, “We’re going through the process now, with the executive, and I expect that to be done during or at the end of the negotiation with the Legislature.”
NYSDOT Commissioner Driscoll will be the featured speaker at a luncheon event of The Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. on Tuesday, March 22 at the Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown.