N.Y. Gov. Paterson Welcomes Obama Plan
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Among the many governors who are enthusiastically awaiting that money for infrastructure is New York state Governor David Paterson. Governor Paterson, welcome to the program.
Governor DAVID PATERSON (Democrat, New York): Robert, thanks for having me.
SIEGEL: You said last week that New York state has more than 40 shovel-ready programs for improving highways and bridges and more than 58 waste water treatment and green infrastructure projects ready to go. First, the phrase shovel-ready - I mean, people have questioned how immediate an impact infrastructure money has. If Washington approves it on a Monday, are people breaking ground on Friday, or is it six months later that work begins on something?
Governor PATERSON: Other than the fact that some of the projects are hard to start in the middle of winter, when the administration will begin, I would say that certainly by March, our projects - as you said, 98 of them were ready to go, are pretty much sitting there just awaiting the OK. And we would actually do it ourselves, but we have a $1.75 billion deficit we have to close within this year. And we have a projected $13.3 billion fiscal deficit in the '09-'10 budget.
SIEGEL: So what you're saying that if there were a program passed shortly after the Obama administration comes in at the end of January, by March, that money would be showing up in the paychecks of people working on bridges, highways, and water treatment plants?
Governor PATERSON: In New York, I would say that's the case. And in some of the warmer states, perhaps sooner.
SIEGEL: You told me back in October that the Wall Street crisis would cost New York state about, I think it was $38 billion in capital gains.
Governor PATERSON: I'd add another 10 on now, Robert. I would say it's nearly $50 billion.
SIEGEL: Well, in view of that scale of declining revenues, how much money would you need from Washington in the way of infrastructure money to make a dent in your budget problems?
Governor PATERSON: Well, actually, I don't know that the infrastructure money will make an immediate dent in the economy. It addresses an issue that America has basically ignored for the last 50 years, and it certainly will protect us long-term from large expenditures that we would have to make with infrastructures fail, bridge collapses or transportation systems that had run down and the like.
But what I do think it will stimulate is getting people back to work and also demonstrating the government is active because I think part of this crisis, most of it economic, is psychological, and that people don't think that we can find solutions to put people back to work.
SIEGEL: Give us an example of one project here, one shovel-ready project that epitomizes what you would like to do with money from Washington.
Governor PATERSON: Oh, up in Western New York, in Rochester - it's really the Genesse Valley. There is Route 252 in Henrietta that we'd like to try to restore because it doesn't really have any real use right now. All the way on the other side of the state in Suffolk County, that's the tip of Long Island, we have Route 112. Now, there's difficult vehicular access in that part of Suffolk County way out toward Montauk Point. And if we could reengage Route 112, we'd be doing the same thing.
SIEGEL: Reengage Route 112 meaning what, widen it?
Governor PATERSON: Well, there are certain points that it's totally cut off, so it's unusable. It's where Long Island becomes very narrow that it could be vital, but we've never rebuilt it.
SIEGEL: And cynics will say narrow and very rich also with beach houses.
Governor PATERSON: Well, it's not going to get any richer when people can't get there. And it's more and more of a problem as the population of that area is growing. And these are the types of projects that can put people to work, but they have a real value because those thoroughfares are moving people. So I think sometimes, the term infrastructure doesn't mean much to people. When you relate infrastructure to school construction and, as in this case, to alleviate traffic, then the public starts to hear you.
SIEGEL: Well, Governor Paterson, thanks for talking with us. And I would feel remiss if I didn't give you the opportunity to tell us now who the new junior senator from New York state is going to be.
Governor PATERSON: Well, Robert, I'm so glad that you've given me the opportunity on NPR to disclose to the country that our new junior senator will be a very qualified person.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: OK. Governor David Paterson speaking to us from New York City. Thank you very much.
Governor PATERSON: Thanks so much. Bye.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.