A report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that New York state will need to invest $250.1 billion in its water, sewer, and highway systems over the next 20 years but is only equipped to fund about two-thirds of that amount.
The $250.1 billion includes $175.2 billion for transportation projects, $36.2 billion for municipal wastewater improvements and $38.7 billion for clean water investments.
Assuming that current levels of state, local and federal spending on the state’s infrastructure are maintained, DiNapoli estimates that $80 billion of these infrastructure spending needs will go unmet.
John Traylor, assistant comptroller in New York's Division of Local Government and School Accountability, who researched the report, said its findings did not surprise him but they should serve as a “wake-up call” for local governments to “get serious” about managing, prioritising and funding infrastructure.
In recent years, local governments have had to bear a disproportionate share of the state's infrastructure spending needs because of the diminishing commitment of state and federal dollars, the report said. In 2007, that share amounted to 56 percent of New York's total infrastructure spending, excluding New York City. But unstable municipal debt markets and dwindling tax revenue sources have limited their ability to continue to dedicate resources to local infrastructure spending needs, the report said.
To help them meet their needs, DiNapoli proposed requiring local governments to have long-term capital plans in place as a pre-requisite to receiving any additional aid. He also urged better intergovernmental coordination among state and local governments to maximise their resources as well as to establish regional capital planning vehicles, such as the metropolitan planning organisations used by the US Department of Transportation to prioritise highway projects.
DiNapoli also favours advocating for increased funding from the federal government after New York exhausts its stimulus funds.
Traylor added that the government should also consider “innovative” financing solutions, such as the pilot public-private partnership (PPP) projects proposed in Governor David Paterson's New York State Asset Maximisation Commission report, released on 1 June. That report outlined 26 recommendations for PPPs in priority areas such as statewide bridge improvements, high-speed rail, transmission and distribution infrastructure, data centers, and wireless telecommunications infrastructure.
“We wanted to encourage people to try to begin to look at some of these creative ideas and at least consider them. They're not appropriate in every case. In the long run we're going to have to start looking at all options being on the table,” Traylor said.
The report also acknowledges that the $787 billion economic stimulus bill signed into law in February by President Obama allocated New York $1.12 billion in highway infrastructure funding, $435 million for clean water projects and $87 million for drinking water infrastructure improvements. “But even with the stimulus funding, there are billions of dollars in urgent infrastructure improvements that are languishing,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
To date, the state has obligated $703 million of transportation stimulus spending and actually spend $17.5 million, according to OpenBookNY.com, a stimulus funds tracking website managed by DiNapoli's office.