Assemblyman Phillip G. Steck / For The Daily Gazette | November 12, 2017
The Mohawk River is perhaps the single most unifying force in the 110th Assembly District.
The historic Stockade in Schenectady, the town of Niskayuna, and the town of Colonie, which comprise the 110th Assembly District, all have areas prone to flooding from the Mohawk. My staff and I attended Union College's Spring 2017 Mohawk River Symposium, where the main focus was water quality in the Mohawk, both for recreational uses, which impacts all the new development near Rivers casino, and Colonie, which draws its water directly from the Mohawk and treats it before distributing it to residents (Schenectady County communities draw their water from the aquifer under the Mohawk).
I discussed Mohawk River water quality with Colonie town officials. While Colonie has a first-rate water treatment plant, it is preferable and less costly to start from cleaner water. I met with Jim Duggan regarding the immovable dams in the Mohawk and their contribution to the flooding problem. Immovable dams create stagnant water, which may contribute to water quality problems in the Mohawk as well.
In response, I obtained an additional $200,000 in the state budget for The Mohawk River Basin Program, which includes water quality and flood hazard risk reduction as two of its five points. The program is administered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
This additional money will make possible studies of much needed corrections to mitigate the flooding and stagnant water building up behind the immoveable dams. I should note that technology exists, such Obermeyer pneumatically operated spillway gates, that could correct the immovable dams.
Water quality problems in the Mohawk emanate from aging sewer infrastructure, which periodically is overloaded, especially during heavy rains, causing untreated effluent to flow into the Mohawk, we sadly must report.
Amsterdam is a hot-spot of this problem. Our colleague, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, has pushed to use funds from the governor's water and sewer infrastructure initiative of last year to help Amsterdam grapple with its sewer needs. Schenectady's new sewer pump station is likewise part of the plan to address water quality issues in the Mohawk.
Last year, I met separately with Stockade citizens and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy to facilitate construction of the new pump station, which is essential, while minimizing its impact on the Stockade. We then passed the necessary enabling legislation for the project.
The Mohawk is our unifying force. But unfortunately, infrastructure needs only seem to get addressed when incidents like Hoosick Falls create an emergency agenda. We need a long-term commitment to fix our state's declining infrastructure.
I continue to advocate for reinstating the Stock Transfer Tax, which New York had from 1915 to 1979, and using the funds raised solely for infrastructure improvements. This tax is but pennies per transaction, but due to volume, would raise billions of dollars. It is a tax that would be paid predominantly by non-New Yorkers.
Other states, such as Alaska, North Dakota and Texas export their tax burden to purchasers of their oil. Their oil revenue subsidizes their citizens' tax burden. By contrast, New Yorkers assume almost our entire tax burden.
Finally, the tax would spread the financial benefit of Wall Street trading more evenly across our state instead of concentrating it among the affluent. In the 19th century, income inequality rose, but at least industry built up our physical plant. We need to assure that is done today as well.
Our state became the Empire State because of a major infrastructure project that included the Mohawk River, namely the Erie Canal. Perhaps in this difficult budget year, we can see the wisdom of a using the Stock Transfer Tax to make a commitment to modernizing our infrastructure.
Phillip G. Steck is a member of the state Assembly representing the 110th District.