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Ranking lawmaker calls for fairer spending on Upstate roads and bridges

New York State Senator Tom O’Mara used his recent appointment as ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee to express the need for more funding of local roads and bridges. In particular, Upstate-Downstate spending parity on bridges and roads.

He says infrastructure in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier need help.

O’Mara made his comments at the opening of a series of legislative hearings on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2021-2022 New York State budget. Over the next several weeks, the Legislature’s fiscal committees — the Senate Finance Committee, and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee — will hold 13 virtual hearings examining Cuomo’s proposals in key issue areas.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on transportation. Sen. O’Mara noted that the governor’s proposed budget calls for spending more than $50 billion as part of a five-year capital plan for the downstate Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and other downstate transportation projects, while less than $12 billion over two years is directed for road and bridge projects throughout the rest of the state.

Additionally, O’Mara said, funding for the main source of state aid for local roads and bridges, the Consolidated Highways and Local Streets Improvement Program (CHIPS), is essentially cut by $65 million through the elimination of Extreme Winter Recovery funding.

At the hearing, O’Mara made his concerns over upstate-downstate funding parity known directly to state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez.

“The CHIPS program represents the most equitable and fair source of across-the-board state funding for local roads and bridges. Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget fails to recognize its importance to our counties, towns and villages as a vehicle for community strength, growth and jobs for local economies, and to help lessen the burden on local property taxpayers,” Sen. O’Mara said. “In fact, it’s hard to fathom how the governor can justify cutting this funding given the hardship that localities continue to shoulder as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and response. The restoration and strengthening of state support for local, upstate and rural roads, bridges and culverts must be a stronger priority in this budget.”

A series of 13 joint Senate-Assembly budget hearings kicked off with today’s forum examining for transportation.

All of this year’s hearings will be conducted virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. View the full hearing schedule by clicking here.

During the hearings members of the Legislature’s fiscal committees — the Senate Finance Committee, and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee — will hear testimony from top Cuomo administration officials, state agency heads, local leaders, and representatives of the wide range of stakeholders impacted by the state’s annual budget.