New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli projects a shortfall of up to $89 billion for infrastructure funding in the next 20 years.

In his report, "Growing Cracks in the Foundation," DiNapoli reports that several studies have projected that the state and local governments have to spend $250 billion on their water and sewer systems and transportation infrastructure in the next 20 years. These and all other estimates in the report exclude the capital needs of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York State Thruway Authority and the New York Bridge Authority.

The report estimates New York's transportation needs at $175 billion, drinking water system needs at $39 billion and municipal wastewater systems at $36 billion.

However, infrastructure is only expected to reach $161 billion in the next 20 years, leaving an $89 billion shortfall.

"New York may have as much as $89 billion in unmet infrastructure needs in the next 20 years, and the effects of Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene have only compounded the problem," DiNapoli said. "The longer we lose ground and push this problem out, the worse our bridges, roads, and sewer and water systems become."

While local governments have tried to maintain their infrastructure assets during difficult fiscal times, rising construction and energy-related costs have increased much faster than the rate of capital spending, and have eroded the purchasing power of capital project dollars, DiNapoli's office reports.

To address New York's infrastructure needs, DiNapoli recommends:

  • Advocacy for increased federal government infrastructure funding.
  • Consideration of pooled financing vehicles to create low or no-cost access to capital.
  • Strengthened municipal capital planning.
  • Creation of regional structures for municipal cooperation on infrastructure investment to generate savings through economies of scale and the avoidance of duplication of effort, and improve municipalities' ability to manage complex building projects.

"The comptroller's projections are accurate," said Mark LaVigne, deputy director of the New York State Association of Counties. "We need to invest in our infrastructure. But at the same time, in these difficult times these investments are not easy."
Due to a lack of infrastructure funding, "many of our counties' roads, bridges, sewer systems and water systems are crumbling," he said.

100 years ago New York counties were able to keep up with infrastructure expenses, LaVigne said. However, since the 1960s the counties have been hit with increasing requirements to transfer money to the state. Now New York's counties transfer $12 billion a year for mandated programs like Medicaid, pensions, indigent defense, and preschool special education. The state does not reciprocate with the same amount of help on infrastructure, LaVigne said.

"There are no easy answers," LaVigne said.

"As cities pay exploding state mandated pension and healthcare costs, our ability to fund vital infrastructure projects diminishes," said Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner.

"The comptroller's report shows that local governments are barely treading water when it comes to investment in public infrastructure, and that they do not have the fiscal capacity to fund New York's massive infrastructure needs," said New York Conference of Mayors executive director Peter Baynes. "While the comptroller makes several sound recommendations for addressing this crisis, NYCOM urges the federal and state governments to use their vast resources to help local governments fill this fiscal void."

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