New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was in Plattsburgh this afternoon to host a transportation roundtable. The Republican says it was vital that Congress passed long-term infrastructure funding.
Last year Congress passed the long-term transportation funding bill known as the FAST Act, or Fixing America’s Surface Transportation. Signed by President Obama in December, it provides $305 billion from 2016 through 2020 for transportation infrastructure programs.
In New York’s North Country there are currently 33 transportation equipment companies employing more than 8,100 people.
Passage of the FAST Act was crucial to the economic stability of the region according to Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas. “Where things move is where prosperity occurs. And for us that’s why we pay so much attention to movement, roads, bridges, railroads, border crossings, airport development, even broadband. The things that make things move in the 21st century. That is putting the Plattsburgh region on the map. It’s making us able to attract unprecedented international investment because things are able to move here, and move through here and to have access to global supply chains. But then it’s also particularly important for us because we have specifically put ourselves not just in the business of movement, but in the business of making and servicing the things that make things move.”
Congresswoman Stefanik of the 21st district noted that she helped pass the legislation because she knows that the FAST Act provides economic stability for the transportation sector across the North Country. “In over a decade we have not had a multi-year highway bill. We have had 6 month extensions. We have had year by year extensions. And one of the pieces of feedback that I heard early on when I would visit Nova Bus or Bombardier or other transportation manufacturers is that lack of certainty causes an ebb and flow in jobs numbers. So we need to do more to ensure multi-year certainty so that those contracts translate to jobs locally. That’s why it was such a big achievement to pass the first multi-year bill, a 6 year highway bill, that’s fully funded.”
Clinton County Area 7 Legislator Rob Timmons says the security of long-term funding also aids municipalities. “Not knowing how much CHIPS money you may be getting year to year, you may only be only be trying to spend just enough to keep your roads together. Where if you know over six years you going to have so much money that you can invest in it you may do a little bit more to actually come out with a better product that’s going to last longer, as long as you know that you’re going to have the money to spend on it. So I think that overall the money is going to be spent wiser as well.”
A range of infrastructure issues were discussed including federal transportation aid requirements for American content. The president has proposed increasing it to 100 percent. Stefanik says that’s impractical in Canadian border communities. “Any content discussion needs recognition at the federal level that it’s not a one size fits all approach, that we have a unique economy that’s tied into both countries here. The president proposed a hundred percent and we were able to negotiate that down so that companies had the certainty and were able to continue to exist in a global marketplace and continue to exist in the North Country.”
About a dozen business and municipal representatives attended the roundtable in Plattsburgh.