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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"What dedicated highway fund?"
ALBANY, Oct. 25 -- From time to time in this column, whenever they become available, I like to share the results of the latest survey or study conducted by the various groups and organizations with a finger on the pulse of the nation’s employers – reports that can sometimes help illuminate what America’s leaders in business and industry are thinking and doing.
reports are valuable for any number of reasons, and they can mean different
things to different people. But for the purposes of local economic development,
I think they’re useful for the insights they offer into what’s
on the minds of some of the world’s most dynamic job creators.
Inevitably what you find if you pay attention are the same priorities rising to the surface time after time. The tax and regulatory climate. The demographics of the available work force. The quality of the educational system, including the availability of higher education.
Over and over, the quality of a region’s infrastructure earns
a leading spot on the list, too. In fact, infrastructure can often be
the deciding factor in the job creation decisions that have become so
All this came to mind following a flurry of recent reports on the condition of the nation’s and New York’s state roads and bridges. And it stands as a critical reminder that the short- and long-term future of New York’s infrastructure deserves to remain in the forefront of the state’s to-do list.
One report from the state comptroller estimates that over the next 20 years, New York is going to need $250 billion to maintain its transportation, sewer and water systems. According to the state Department of Transportation, about 12 percent of New York’s bridges are structurally deficient while approximately 25 percent are functionally obsolete -- meaning, in other words, they’ve outlived their usefulness.
Of course it’s an infrastructure crisis that’s been building
for a long time now and, it’s worth recalling, was the motivating
factor behind the creation of the state’s Dedicated Highway and
Bridge Trust Fund back in 1991. That’s right, state leaders had
the foresight 20 years ago to look
The problem is that somewhere along the way over the past two decades
a few holes were punched out of this so-called “locked box”
of highway-and-bridge funding, so that here in 2011 the fund is being
tapped for purposes, in my view, far removed from highway and bridge maintenance
and improvement. One news report last week noted that more than a third
of the fund’s annual $3.5-billion allocation goes to the state Department
of Motor Vehicles for salaries and other administrative and operating
costs, as well as for state Department of Transportation snow and ice
removal. That same article also stated that more money from the fund is
It’s yet another example of a failure to abide by strict priorities and remain focused on fundamental governmental responsibilities. In other words, another failure of government to remain true to its original intent, to live up to its word.
It has to stop. So as we rapidly approach the start of the 2012 legislative
session, this issue demands attention. Earlier this year the Senate unanimously
approved legislation to ensure that funding from the Dedicated Highway
and Bridge Trust Fund would only be used for its original
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869