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From New York Newspapers

Newsday on rebuilding the infrastructure of the U.S., April 30

Under President Donald Trump, the United States has added another spring ritual to accompany blooming flowers and the return of baseball: the fresh promise of a grand plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Tuesday, Trump and his advisers met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There were similar meetings and similar brandings of “infrastructure week” in early 2017 and 2018, too. But this time, Democrats Pelosi and Schumer sounded optimistic about the conversation, and about a potential bipartisan plan to spend $2 trillion to repair the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and tunnels, improve the power grid and expand broadband service.

A vital nation must have high-quality infrastructure. Rebuilding ours would provide good-paying jobs, a better business environment and a safer and more comfortable nation. There is little opposition in either party, so it’s vexing that a bipartisan deal hasn’t already been done.

But it always comes down to funding and priorities. To spend $2 trillion, that money must be raised via public or private sources, whether it’s borrowed, assessed in gasoline taxes or other levies or captured via tolls and fees. And then it must be parceled out fairly and wisely.

The tri-state area needs major improvements. One is the Gateway project, a $30 billion effort to build a rail tunnel under the Hudson River. We need more workaday improvements, too, like safe roads and bridges. We need to be able to easily move products and people about. And we need to be able to move important legislation, too.

Trump and congressional leaders plan to meet again on the topic in three weeks. This time, they need to the framework of a deal. Because if failing to do so becomes an annual tradition, the decline of our nation will become a foregone conclusion.

The Syracuse Post-Standard on low WNBA salaries, April 25

Breanna Stewart, the WNBA’s reigning most valuable player, will miss the entire 2019 season due to a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Her injury is exposing the league’s own Achilles heel: pathetically low salaries that force stars like Stewart to play overseas for the money.

Stewart is a graduate of Cicero-North Syracuse High School and recently was named the No. 1 Central New York high school athlete of all time by Syracuse.com. After a stellar college career at the University of Connecticut, Stewart was picked first overall in the 2016 WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm. She led her team to the WNBA championship last season.

All of that came crashing down April 14. Stewart was playing in the EuroLeague title game between her Dynamo Kursk team and UMMC Ekaterinburg when she landed on the foot of another WNBA veteran, Brittney Griner, and collapsed in agony. Stewart had surgery in Los Angeles. She is expected to be back for the 2020 WNBA season and the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Stewart’s injury couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the WNBA. The 2019 season will begin May 24 without its brightest star.

But it’s good timing for the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, whose contract with the league expires at the end of the 2019 season. Players want a bigger piece of the pie – and justifiably so.

The average WNBA base salary is roughly $75,000, exclusive of benefits and bonuses, for a 34-game regular season; the maximum base pay a player can earn is $117,500. For the men, the minimum NBA salary is $838,464 for an 82-game regular season.

The pay differential is partly explained by the profitability of the leagues (about half of WNBA teams lose money) and the greater share of team revenue NBA players receive (roughly 50 percent). Even so, UNLV professor Nancy Lough argues that the pay gap is real: In 1971-72, the season the NBA started drawing the same number of fans the WNBA draws today, NBA players made an average of $90,000. That’s $500,000 in today’s dollars.

The WNBA, in its 23rd year, is trying to grow its audience and profitability. It recently signed a new TV deal with the CBS Sports Network to nationally televise 40 regular-season games, in addition to the 19 games plus playoffs shown on ESPN’s networks. There’s also a new marketing deal with AT&T. The NBA owns 50 percent of the WNBA, and can afford to invest more in its success. (The league points out it has already invested heavily, absorbing over $200 million in losses over the WNBA’s lifetime.)

Foreign teams pay women hundreds of thousands of dollars for their talents. Some players would gladly forgo the physical grind of playing year-round, and the increased risk of injury, if they could earn more in the United States.

The WNBA’s bargain salaries are pennywise and pound foolish. By raising pay, the league can signal the value it places on its players, show more concern for their well-being and satisfy fans who’ll pay good money to watch the best players in women’s basketball.

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