NYSCHSA President Joe Wisinski's Testimony at the Joint Legislative Public Hearings on the 2021-2022 Executive Budget Proposal – Transportation
New York State County Highway Superintendents Association
Joint Legislative Public Hearings on the
2021-2022 Executive Budget Proposal – Transportation
Good evening, Chairs Kreuger and Weinstein, and members of the Senate and Assembly. I am Joseph Wisinski, President of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association (NYSCHSA) and Madison County Highway Superintendent. Thank you for this opportunity to offer comments today on the 2021-2022 Executive Budget and its impact on counties’ local road and bridge programs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, and our county highway departments are no exception. We adhere to and follow all current public health policies to minimize the spread. However, despite our best efforts we continue to be short staffed with people out for positive cases or quarantine. Costs for cleaning and sanitizing of vehicles and equipment, social distancing, and masks, all continue to strain our local budgets, as our dedicated staff goes about the business of reconstructing, repairing, and maintaining our local transportation systems. In addition, we request that our Highway Crews be added to the Phase 1B COVID eligibility list.
LOCAL ROADS AND BRIDGES
- As you know, make up the bulk of the statewide system
- 87% of NY’s roads and over half the bridges are owned by local governments
- Our crews are plowing county roads as well as many state-owned highways to assure safe winter travel
- Local Roads are Essential: The reason is Motorists need to get to and from their jobs, homes, schools, hospitals, and other destinations.
- The Executive Budget proposal holds CHIPS funding once again, flat, at $438 million.
- If enacted, this would be the 9th year without a CHIPS increase
- No increases are proposed for BRIDGE-NY and PAVE-NY (both remain at $100 million)
- We do applaud the Governor’s announcement yesterday to rollout a new $200 million BRIDGE-NY project solicitation to generate good-paying jobs, improve system functionality and resiliency, and keeping millions of motorists safe
- The Extreme Winter Recovery program, which the Legislature sponsors at $65 million, is not carried forward in the Executive Budget
Thus, the state’s local road and bridge spending plan is flat despite the 33% funding increase in the overall 2-Year DOT Capital Plan, set at $3 billion for the current budget plus the one to be adopted in April.
LOCAL PROGRAMS NEED TO BE MADE WHOLE without delay.
- The current appropriations for local highway programs were cut by 20%; $120.6 million
- 2020 Funding allocation notices to local highway departments were not sent until 69 days after the budget was adopted last April.
- Many municipalities could not go forward and plan their highway programs with the uncertainty of full reimbursement from the state
- With only 80% of our CHIPS, PAVE NY and EWR funds available, our local transportation capital programs, which were already underfunded, were reduced even further.
- As a result, we saw a reduction in local construction jobs and we all know that work delayed, will cost much more later.
- Counties have seen a massive drop in sales tax collections and state aid and while Counties do all they can to maintain highway infrastructure funding at the local level, they are often operating with their hands tied behind their backs, and not able to makeup losses in highway funding.
SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN UNANSWERED ARE
- The Governor's Executive Budget proposes a 15% repayment for local programs that were cut; 5% will be a permanent cut for unknown reasons.
- It is not clear how or when the local road and bridge capital repayment funding will happen.
- We need Legislators to help us answers to these questions
NYSCHSA IS URGING LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT FOR:
- 100% of the cuts to highway funding, to be restored this year.
- Fully funding the 2021-2022 appropriations as proposed in the Executive Budget
- Increase the EWR appropriation to $100 million
- And Protection against cuts to the local highway programs in the 2021-2022 state budget
We look forward to working with you as budget deliberations continue and to assure appropriate levels of funding for essential local road, bridge, and culvert projects, and assist in the economic recovery and job creation that public infrastructure investment brings to NY communities.