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Group lobbying to 'Rebuild NY Now' with state windfall funds

Ellen Abbott/WRVO
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner joins the group Rebuild New York Now in calling on the state to spend money repairing infrastructure.

Look for a feeding frenzy in Albany next spring, when lawmakers have to figure out to do with about $5 billion in unexpected cash.  A group called Rebuild New York Now is creating a coalition of government leaders, organized labor and private business to urge Albany to spend the windfall on fixing the state’s declining infrastructure.

The statewide campaign of raising public awareness about the state’s crumbling infrastructure, stopped in Syracuse Tuesday. Mayor Stephanie Miner counts herself as a supporter, noting the drive fits right in with her year-long clarion call to fix crumbling roads and water mains.

“Reinvesting in that infrastructure will position us for growth in the entire community, and that’s why I’ve been committed as a mayor of this city to talk about how important infrastructure is and to talk about how important it is for our future,” said Miner.

Other local officials, like town of Manlius superintendent Ed Theobold, say there is no way local governments have the cash for the upkeep of the roads.

"The town of Manlius budget is approximately half of where it needs to be to keep our roads well maintained," said Theobold.

The organization is crisscrossing the state, trying to raise public awareness about the need to repair broken down bridges and old water systems, says spokeswoman Carly Hill.

“They have a lifespan. And if you don’t invest in them, they do what everything else does when you invest in, or you don’t take care of, they break down,”  said Hill.
Syracuse state Sen. John DeFrancisco, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee says there will be many special interests trying to get at the state’s extra cash, which came from the negotiated financial settlements with banks.  

DeFrancisco believes this one-shot windfall should pay for one-time expenditures, things like infrastructure repair, that don’t need funds every year. DeFransisco says it is important for infrastructure boosters to make their point.

“Keep your voices loud and clear, so when the feeding frenzy begins, the right thing is done, and I’ll do my darnedest to make that happen,” said DeFrancisco.

Miner has put forth a proposal to the state government in Albany to spend money on infrastructure in Syracuse, including repairing water mains, increasing broadband internet access, and creating a naturally chilled water system to cool buildings in the summer. 

Lawmakers will make their decision about spending the $5 billion during budget negotiations next year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.