Monday, October 20, 2014

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Hanna pushes for fed help in financing local infrastructure projects

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Hanna pushes for fed help in financing local infrastructure projects
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UTICA, N.Y. -- For the historic and aging city of Utica, the infrastructure is falling apart. The water and sewer systems desperately need replacing and the roads are a mess, and Mayor Robert Palmieri said this cold and snowy winter hasn't helped.

"I've talked to a number of mayors who have put down macadam last year and because of this winter it's starting to fall apart at this point," he said.

But Palmieri said there's not enough money to make all the necessary repairs. That's why Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Utica, is proposing the State Transportation and Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act, where state infrastructure banks would be included into the new federal highway bill.

"[It] allows the states to take up to 15 percent, 10-15 percent, of the federal funds and loan them to local communities at their discretion for local infrastructure projects," Hanna said.

One example: New York State receives about $3.4 billion in federal funding for infrastructure needs over 2 1/2 years. If the state infrastructure bank program was put into effect, the state would be able to loan about $500 million to local communities.

"It eliminates the need for bonding that it's just one more resource for a city that's strapped for resources to use," Hanna said.

Local governments will have to apply for the funding and their projects must be approved by the state. The funding would be offered through a low interest loan, short- or long-term construction debt financing, or lines of credit.

State infrastructure banks are not a new idea. They were incorporated into the last highway bill, but expired in 2009. Hanna said he's not sure why they weren't included into the current bill. He said they were very successful in the past and is confident these state programs would be beneficial again in the future.

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