Alexander: Opportunities abound for LI in state, federal proposals

February 1, 2017

Eric AlexanderDivision seems to be the reported theme of our federal and state politics. There is a deluge of acrimony between special interest groups and passionate citizens protesting on the federal level and a lack of communication among state branches of government. Regardless of the conflict, there are a few common sense proposals that can assist Long Island communities.

Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State included a stop in Farmingdale as a precursor to his budget. Some of the following policies have been a part of the 90 organization Long Island Lobby Coalition agenda for some time.

Part of a list of infrastructure projects included a $2 billion statewide water fund. Also added was $40 million for Kings Park and Smithtown downtown sewer expansion.

Transportation enhancements include $80 million to modernize 16 major LIRR stations. The station upgrades include Wi-Fi, clearer signage for travelers and public art. Completion of double track and advancement of the third track are other projects that are moving forward. With the MTA payroll tax providing a minimal amount of benefit for Long Islanders, these investments are good to see.

Ride-sharing was also on the agenda as it is currently only legal in NYC and could aide in funding Nassau and Suffolk busses. State senators have proposed a .50 surcharge on rides to support bus service in both counties where recurring revenue for these systems is desperately needed. Regardless of the fate of this proposal, redirecting some MTA payroll tax dollars towards our local bus service is needed.

Recent proposals weren’t all good news as local governments and small businesses don’t all see benefits. Most municipalities which have been living under the tax cap are the front lines for public services. They are the most trusted and able to achieve consensus. With that said, ideas for more regional planning impacting local government received a lukewarm response.

Without mandate relief or an increase in AIM funding – more regulations would not be helpful. A better idea would be to target support for local downtowns that have been planning and executing Main Street revitalization for many years, like Westbury that received funding in last year’s DRI initiative.

The small business community is grappling with an increased minimum wage and ongoing regulations with little relief.  Proposals to subsidize not for profits through wage increases leave out these local employers. Legislation for small business savings accounts provides an opportunity to balance the scales.

On the federal level, the president has proposed a record infrastructure investment to get folks back to work. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao along with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will likely shape the proposals coming forward with the assistance of the House Transportation Committee which includes L.I.’s Congressman Lee Zeldin. Sen. Schumer recently stood with LI transportation advocates to call for these investments in local roads, bridges, transit and other projects.

Congressman Peter King stood with the LI Coalition for the Homeless demonstrating support for homeless veterans, housing and support services that need to stay in place as the new regime sets priorities.

Despite the division there are ways our region can rally around these initiatives.  Hopefully we will see through the clouds of conflict and move our local economy forward with state and federal support.