Drops in the Bucket

Cuomo’s Budget and Trump’s Tax Plan both Shortchange New York’s Water Infrastructure

A few weeks ago, Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech touched on the need to improve New York’s water infrastructure. There’s no doubt that the needs are urgent, from replacing dangerous lead lines to finding safe sources of clean drinking water for towns like Hoosick Falls, a village near Albany. For the sake of public health, New Yorkers need to act fast.

In addition, President Trump’s new tax plan is going to hurt New York and New York water.

To begin with, this plan will increase the public costs of municipal borrowing for water projects. Municipal bonds are the primary way that cities pay for infrastructure, and the new tax bill is going to make these bonds more expensive by cutting into the tax-exemption benefits for prospective buyers.  As a result, governments will have to pay higher interest rates on those bonds to attract buyers, which will hamper the state’s ability to raise revenue to help pay for local water projects. Ultimately, this means higher water rates to pay for necessary improvements to keep our water safe and clean, and for rural areas, it could mean unsafe water.

There are other considerations as well. After considerable delay and confusion, the Trump White House is planning to roll out its own set of principles regarding a trillion dollar infrastructure plan, which will affect us at the state and local level.  After many meetings with congressional staff and discussions with the robust Millions of Jobs coalition, Food & Water Watch has gathered some intelligence on what the Trump administration is planning to deliver.

We are concerned that there will be little in this infrastructure plan to help New York water systems — that the White House’s idea of infrastructure that needs repairing is more likely to be oil and gas pipelines than water lines. Water projects will also have to compete with big infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. Moreover, there are concerns that this plan will strip away environmental and worker safety protections, and encourage the privatization of our essential services, which most often leads to rate hikes.

Then there is the state’s role: Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership and partnership with the Legislature, New York has gotten closer to meeting our actual infrastructure challenges in recent years. However, in yesterday’s budget announcement, Governor Cuomo failed to deliver any new funding for water infrastructure, thereby missing a golden opportunity to close the funding gap. Given the grim outlook for federal funding, the governor’s budget proposal appears doubly troublesome.

We need federal support to ensure that New York water systems are fully capable of providing clean and accessible drinking water sources to our citizens. With the threats from the Trump administration to gut environmental protections and water infrastructure investment, it is critical for us to organize to ensure that Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand lead the opposition to Trump’s infrastructure scheme.

We encourage New Yorkers to stay abreast of this issue along with Food & Water Watch, and to let their legislators, at both the state and the federal level, know that water infrastructure, and the funding to ensure it, should be a top priority going forward.