February 2, 2016

PD_adobeimage_missingmanquestion.jpgLI Legislators Missing in Action

With more bombast than bucks, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has given the state legislature a proposed budget that offers much inspiration but little funding for Long Island.

The good news is that he has become a champion of the state’s transportation infrastructure, which is certainly a step in the right direction, but as we know, the devil is in the details. What does it mean for our Long Island region? Will the promised increased spending on roads and bridges include projects in Nassau and Suffolk? We’ve heard good news before, only to be bitterly disappointed when actual funding and projects fail to materialize for our region. 

As part of the budget process, the state’s constitution requires the Governor’s recommendation be subject to joint-legislative budgetary hearings. This is where Long Island taxpayers and our industry depend upon our local legislative delegation to fight for Long Island’s needs. An initial hearing during January saw lawmakers quiz DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll regarding allocations and priorities. If it is a sign of things to come for Nassau-Suffolk, we had better be prepared to be severely shortchanged again, as no Long Island based legislator engaged the DOT on funding for our region, much less acted as advocate for their constituents.

In truth, we were amazed and shocked that our legislative delegation showed practically no interest in our region’s crumbling infrastructure, by electing to not even show up for the transportation hearing. For a region that in the past received in the neighborhood of $300 million annually for state highways and last year barely broke $100 million, one should have expected our elected officials to have showed up at the hearing with torches and pitchforks. Instead, our delegation, which includes the Assembly Deputy Speaker, the Assembly Deputy Majority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader, the Chair of the Senate Labor Committee and the Co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, chose to not even show up.

Of two local legislators who actually decided to attend, both sadly missed a unique opportunity to demonstrate their stature as true leaders able to focus on the greater needs of Long Island. Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, who is seeking the Senate seat of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, limited his comments to asking the DOT Commissioner to be sensitive to constituent complaints for several projects already planned in his legislative district. Assemblyman Dave McDonough, the Ranking Republican of the Assembly Transportation Committee, didn’t even ask any questions with a statewide perspective in his leadership role, let alone offering a thought on the Long Island region. He did drop a sound bite about Southern State Parkway being referred to as “Blood Alley.” He posed an empty inquiry about what can be done to improve a section of the parkway that runs through his legislative district.

The hearing provided one more example of a dysfunctional Albany unwilling or unable to make good on the promise that New York is supposed to be open for business. 

New York State DOT Commissioner Driscoll, a fine man with the best of intentions, appeared handcuffed and gagged by the Cuomo Administration, and could not provide any fiscal answers beyond previously scripted generalities. His performance at the hearing regrettably earned him recognition on City and State’s “Loser of the Week” list.

In the wake of that hearing, LICA has a responsibility to sound the alarm to 2.7 million Long Islanders. Without any legislative representation, our industry must take steps to make sure our united voices are heard. Please contact your local state officials and ask them why they have abandoned Long Island’s public infrastructure – the very means of ensuring an economy capable of putting people to work. If they are not engaged, the only path forward is to an unrecognizable future not worthy of the families who live and work here.

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