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LIMBA meeting Congressman Bishop, Sponsor-LICA

October 19, 2012 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Congressman Tim Bishop was our speaker this morning. Mr. Bishop had asked me to give him input on what we should emphasize. Infrastructure was my reply. Our sponsor for the meeting was Long Island Contractors Association (LICA). These LICA members are deeply impacted by the fact that so little is getting done.

The Congressman proceeded to give an example of the ancillary effects of building infrastructure. His example was a roadway project that lent itself to development. In Middle Island. After the completion a business complex was approved that resulted in 350 new jobs that would not have been built otherwise.

Tim reminded us of the different world we live in today. “Back in the 70’s the federal government was in for 68% of the cost. The balance was paid by local and state.” Today, of course, that money availability does not exist. There had been in excess of $6 billion in federal funds for building local infrastructure, and that was reduced to $650 million. That is about a 90% reduction. Bishop has a bill that will restore some of the money to the level $2.9 billion. That money will go to clean water resources. That trust fund will need a funding source, perhaps similar to the highway trust fund where new money is constantly refreshed.

Waste water limitations are inhibiting growth on Long Island. Bishop recited a number of locales that cannot build because the sewers in place cannot handle the demand, Southampton being one of them.

We brought up the possibility of public/private partnerships. That seems to be the route that much of the world is traveling to achieve infrastructure needs. I pointed out that the transcontinental railroad was built under this concept. In that case the federal government owned much of the land that was deeded to the rail companies. This land that had little value at the time because transportation that could serve the people was very limited. On one hand you might say that this was one helluva gift to private industry, but it gave us the transportation links that caused this nation to prosper.

The congressman than spoke of education and the continued funding of our important educational and research institutions. The SUNY system on Long Island provides an astounding 35,000 jobs. These are jobs that bring families a good living. The second biggest employer is Brookhaven National Labs. Again high end, high value jobs. Education and research that these institutions bring to Long Island are the tools that make a better future possible. Perhaps it would be better for all of us if industry was a much bigger part of the equation, but this is the economy that we have and it serves far more than the local Long Island region. Assets that we have improve the job knowledge and science that serves the state and the country.

Marc Herbst, our sponsor this morning, gave us some sobering stats on job losses in the construction industry that he represents. Ninety five hundred construction jobs lost in the past year. The job loss multiplier is three times that amount.

During the Q&A BOCES board member Dan Tomeshevsky told us that the funds for vocational training are drying up. He stated that this segment of the population is very important since every student is not motivated toward college, and yet we need these skilled workers.

St Joseph’s College professor Al Vitters suggested that there is possibly a student loan bubble looming. The congressman added that this problem is being increased by the predatory nature of some for profit colleges that are setting up “store front” operations right outside military installations. I suggested we spend little military funds for guidance counseling before we discharge our soldiers. Bishop agreed, that would be money well spent.

This session covered a lot of issues and concerns. We got the message that there is a vast difference between the idea that we are spending too much and whether we are investing enough to seed the future.