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Source: Albany Times Union

Environmentalists back $5B bond act

Weather damage cited as factor; some worry about more state debt


Posted: September 9, 2013
Originally Published: September 6, 2013


A slew of environmentalists on Friday gave an emphatic thumbs up to a proposal for a $5 billion bond act.

But the chances of such an act going to voters next year is up in the air, some privately conceded, until Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighs in on the issue.

The call for a new tax-backed bond came during a hearing before the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.

Committee Chairman Robert Sweeney, a Long Island Democrat, and western New York GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti have offered legislation that would put such an act before voters in 2014.

There hasn't been such a bond since 1996 and many of those who testified referred to what they said was the state's aging water and sewer infrastructure.

"We've seen a lot of crumbling and failing of sewage treatment (systems) around the state," said Adrienne Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "Literally the pipes are crumbling."

Others referred to a 2008 report indicating that $70 billion in water and sewer improvements could be needed over the next two decades statewide.

The 1996 bond act was for $1.75 billion. Not all of that has been spent but the money is committed.

Fiscal conservatives have questioned the need for another $5 billion in debt, especially since not all of the 1996 money has been used.

But others said the key issue would be backing from the governor who could use his bully pulpit to support such a referendum, if he supports the concept.

Some of those at the hearing said the state's environmental infrastructure has been further degraded by Superstorm Sandy and other recent weather catastrophes.

Other challenges: invasive species in storied bodies of water such as Lake George.

"There is a sense of urgency and immediacy on these invasive issues," said Dan Stec, a North Country Republican.