The governor’s budget cuts threaten local roads


How many potholes do you swerve to avoid during your daily commute to work, school, the grocery store or a family or friend’s house? How many times have you yelled in anger in your car for someone to “Fix the roads!”? At a time when our communities are grappling with numerous challenges, the proposed state Executive Budget’s significant decrease in the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, also known as CHIPS, demands immediate attention, or the shouting at potholes will get worse.

The proposed reduction of $60 million in CHIPS funding isn’t just a number on paper; it translates into real consequences for our local roads and bridges. These are the very arteries that connect our neighborhoods, facilitate commerce and guarantee the smooth flow of daily life. The condition of our roads makes the difference in whether we get to a doctor’s appointments on time, and, even more critically, the time it takes emergency services to respond to a call. A reduction in funding jeopardizes the safety, functionality and longevity of our transportation infrastructure throughout Nassau County.

Local governments, tasked with maintaining nearly 87 percent of the state’s roads and half of its bridges, are already struggling with budgetary constraints imposed by the state property tax cap, rising pension and health care costs and unfunded mandates. The proposed reduction in CHIPS exacerbates these challenges, making it harder for localities to address the critical needs of our communities. The escalation of natural disasters, exemplified by the extensive flooding Long Island has faced in the past year, underscores the heightened urgency for an adequately funded CHIPS.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed $60 million cut overlooks the impact of inflation on local highway departments. Across the country, the Federal Highway Administration Highway Construction Cost Index notes a 58.6 percent increase in highway construction costs over the past two and a half years. As the cost of materials and labor continues to rise, stagnant funding levels become insufficient to meet the evolving demands of maintenance and improvement projects.

Equitability, fairness and parity are indispensable when funding our state’s infrastructure. The current proposal fails to acknowledge the growing disparity between the needs on the ground and the resources allocated from the top.

To bridge this gap, I am actively advocating for greater state investment in local roads. Our state’s infrastructure is in dire need of attention, as evidenced by New York’s highway system ranking 49th in the nation, according to Reason’s 27th annual Highway Report. This statistic might not surprise you, but it reflects the reality faced by commuters given the consequences of a deteriorating transportation network.

Local roads are the lifeblood of our communities — they connect us from our homes to our businesses, our schools, our libraries and all the places that make our neighborhoods feel like home. While the proposed budget continues valuable programs like Extreme Winter Recovery, PAVE-NY, and Pave our Potholes, the reduction in CHIPS by $60 million, and in the State Touring Routes Program, by $40 million, threaten the stability of our local infrastructure.

The state-backed mantra “Local Roads are Essential” rings true only when backed by tangible actions that demonstrate a commitment to valuing and prioritizing our local roads. Increasing the CHIPS base level by $200 million and maintaining allocations for BRIDGE-NY, EWR, PAVE-NY, STR and POP will strengthen the foundation laid over several state budgets. While preserving certain programs, the proposed state budget for this year falls short of recognizing the urgency and scale of the infrastructure crisis facing our localities.

During your next commute, don’t let your concern for the condition of your local roads be contained in your car — let your voice be heard. Join me and dozens of our local towns and villages in calling for the governor to support an increase in funding for our local roads in this year’s budget.

Ed Ra represents the 19th Assembly District, and is the ranking Republican on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.