By: Nick Reisman | Spectrum Local News
In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $3 billion bond act for environmental infrastructure. But then the pandemic hit and the idea was shelved.
Environmental advocates, business leaders and labor union officials are now trying to revive the proposal in 2021.
The move will invest money in the state’s creaking water infrastructure like sewers and wastewater.
“We’re an old state that has old infrastructure,” said Julie Tighe, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “You see it all the time. It rains and waste water over flows.”
But this is the kind of infrastructure that can be easily ignored until there is, say, another lead contamination crisis on the level of Flint, Michigan. The coalition backing the bond act is also making the argument based on job creation.
“We know from other work, other investments the state is making, that for every million dollars its investing in water infrastructure, 17 local jobs are created,” Tighe said.
And with unemployment above 9% in New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the jobs argument is being led by labor union officials.
“More than anything we bring credibility to the discussion,” said Vincent Albanese of the New York State Laborers’ Organizing Fund. “You’re not just creating any jobs, we’re looking at creating good, union, middle class, family-sustaining jobs with good wages and benefits.”
But can the state afford borrow so much amid the pandemic and the economic chaos? The state faces a multi-billion budget gap and is seeking aid from Washington to help fill it.
“I think that’s why it’s so important for us to get state and local aid from the federal government,” Tighe said. “We need both. We know a bond act will create jobs, the state does need to assess its bond capacity and we need funding from the federal government. We need all these pieces together.”