Otis: Municipal Clean Water Grant Program Included in Assembly Budget

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) announced today that the NYS Budget proposal adopted by the Assembly on March 12th includes a new $250 million grant program to assist municipalities in funding water quality infrastructure projects.

The proposal was developed and promoted by Assemblyman Otis and Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes) to address the problems municipalities face in funding needed clean water projects throughout the state. Otis and McDonald previously served as mayors of their respective communities and have long sought ways to address municipal infrastructure costs.

Many of these water and sewer projects are the result of federal Clean Water Act mandates that are enforced by the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Because of overall costs and the inability to take on so much debt, implementing these much-needed projects is a challenge for municipalities. To fund such projects, local governments often have the option of applying for Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) loans. Yet many do not take full advantage of this program because they cannot afford to finance the projects by incurring such debt. Each year about $1 billion in EFC borrowing capacity remains unused because applications are not submitted.

Assemblyman Otis commented, “A grant program is needed to address this crisis. Our budget includes the creation of a new grant program that local governments can tap into to help fund needed water quality projects in combination with borrowing. It will provide an incentive for local governments to move ahead with clean water projects by making them more affordable and shifting some of the cost away from overly burdened property taxpayers.”

Otis and McDonald shared their proposal at the February 9th Legislative meeting of the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), where both were speakers. They worked together to advance the proposal in the Assembly throughout the budget process.

In a joint statement Otis and McDonald stated, “We are very appreciative of the tremendous support this proposal has received from Speaker Carl Heastie and many of our colleagues who represent local governments facing the same issues. We also want to acknowledge the efforts of Assembly Environmental Conservation Chair, Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), and Assembly Local Government Chair, Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse).

The Governor, Senate and Assembly are now in the middle of the budget negotiations. “We are hopeful this program will be included in the final budget and are working with local governments and environmental organizations to support this commitment,” concluded Otis and McDonald.