State and local officials support infrastructure deal

Stefanik voted ‘no’

PLATTSBURGH — News that congress had passed an infrastructure spending plan hit well with leaders in New York and here in the North Country.

“Congress has made good on its promise to deliver infrastructure funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, meaning New York will be able to make critical investments in our roads, bridges, and transit,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

“This funding also helps make our infrastructure more resilient to climate change and will expand access to clean water, supporting New York’s economic growth and improving public health.

“I want to thank President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Congressional leadership for their continued progress on the Build Back Better agenda. With historic levels of funding for the care economy, housing and education, our workforce, and climate, we must also pass this legislation to help New York come back stronger.”

Schumer, Gillibrand approve

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who helped negotiate the bill, detailed the billions this historic legislation will deliver to New York.

The bill delivers huge investment for New York State and will advance critical projects–from fixing bridges in Rochester, to bolstering buses and transportation in Syracuse, ensuring clean environments in the Hudson Valley and Great Lakes, improving the airport in Albany, securing life-saving limo safety measures, and expanding internet accessibility in the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley, a statement said.

Schumer said upon President Biden’s signature these funds will ensure the bedrock of New York — its infrastructure, from the subway system, to water and sewers to roads and bridges — gets long-awaited investments and relief needed to meet growing demands, boost the economy while safely and responsibly moving both people and goods across the state and beyond.

“The bipartisan infrastructure is a record deal and a once-in-a-generation investment in New York infrastructure. A building and jobs boon for construction projects from Westchester to Watertown, and everywhere in between is now brewing,” Schumer said.

Schumer added, “Whether it’s our mass transit system, critical bridges or highway repairs, fixing our subway tunnels, safety improvements at our airports, bridging the digital divide, or ensuring clean drinking water for all, this bill will rebuild and revive the Empire State’s infrastructure and create good paying jobs for communities that need it most. As Majority Leader, I am proud to have lead this historic bill to passage that will deliver the largest federal investment in public transit and infrastructure in New York’s history so that we can continue to build back better.”

Gillibrand said she looks forward to President Biden signing it into law.

“This package will create jobs, boost our economy, deliver funding to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and help rebuild underserved communities,” Gillibrand said.

“Now, we must continue to focus on passing a Build Back Better package that invests in people with policies like paid leave, affordable child care, universal pre-K, and more. I will continue to be relentless about getting this over the finish line.”

‘Needed investment’

The North Country Chamber of Commerce also applauded the final passage by the House of Representatives.

“This much needed investment in our infrastructure has been needed for years and had 90% support from the North Country business community in our 2021 issue survey,” Garry Douglas, chamber president, said.

“Besides needed funding for our roads and bridges, the bill commits $39 billion to the nation’s public transit systems, the largest federal investment in public transit ever. Plus $7.5 billion specifically for electric buses and ferries. This means a major wave of contract opportunities over the next five years for our North Country transportation equipment manufacturers, including Alstom, Nova Bus and their suppliers.”

Local companies

The chamber noted that there are now at least 50 transportation equipment manufacturers in the region generating some 9,000 jobs.

“And our key companies such as Nova and Alstom are on the cutting edge of new technologies which will be the target of much of this investment,” Douglas said.

“As we and others have been calling for during the development of this bill, it also makes an historic federal commitment to closing broadband gaps, totaling $65 billion.”

“One of the great lessons of the pandemic was the critical need to close remaining gaps to support everything from remote learning and work to telemedicine. New York State did a lot over the last several years, but federal support is critical to finishing the job.”

Douglas added that the North Country Chamber conducted its annual strategic planning retreat in Saranac Lake on Friday and broadband was a key priority topic.

“And there is another major investment in our airports of $25 billion which we know will bring added support to Plattsburgh International and our other regional airports,” Douglas said. “And $55 billion for water infrastructure improvements, needed by so many of our North Country communities to support residents as well as business and economic development.

“Everything our regional business community wanted included in a new federal infrastructure package is there. It was a long time coming but will have been well worth the wait.”

Stefanik votes no

While Democrats rejoiced over approval of the federal infrastructure package, North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik railed against it.

Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said she voted against what she called the Democrats’ so-called “infrastructure” package, claiming that it would “prioritize large, Democrat cities over rural America as part of Democrats’ radical agenda to impose the largest tax increase in our nation’s history.”

‘Fails to meet needs’

“Democrats have made their priorities clear, and their so-called ‘infrastructure’ plan fails to meet the needs for rural America,” Stefanik said in a statement.

“This Far-Left plan prioritizes Green New Deal policies over traditional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. These radical policies show Democrats’ priorities are for large, Democrat cities, not for the hardworking people of the North Country,” she said.

“Democrats’ out-of-control spending is to blame for the highest inflation rates in 30 years and the most expensive Thanksgiving in the history of the holiday, but they are still trying to spend trillions more of taxpayer dollars. I have worked with my colleagues to deliver critical, targeted results on broadband and infrastructure for the North Country, but House Democrats have failed in this effort.”

Rural broadband

The bill received support from 13 Republican Congress members, including four from New York. Six Democrats voted against it.

Stefanik said she is currently pushing to preempt New York’s state fee on fiber optic broadband distribution, which she says is dis-incentivizing rural broadband buildout in the North Country.

Yet North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas, in his statements following the passage of the bill, said the legislation would represent “an historic federal commitment to closing broadband gaps” and praised the federal support.

Broadband efforts

In March, Stefanik cosponsored the BOOST Act to increase internet access for homeowners in rural areas.

Last year, Stefanik said she worked with the Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai to allow New York to be eligible for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to expand broadband to the North Country.

Additionally, she worked to expand the Northern Border Regional Commission grant program to make it more accessible and able to support more critical development projects for the North Country, a news release said.


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