A10223 attempts to create a separated fund to help underground utilities in New York State. Briefly, under-grounding is the moving of presently above-ground utility facilities below ground. The motivation for this improvement, presumably, primarily relates to aesthetics and quality of life. As an example, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has recently made under-grounding a priority, to rather widespread acclaim.
A10223 is sponsored by Assembly Member Thiele. There is a partner bill in the Senate, S8084, sponsored by LaValle. Neither bill has moved beyond committee.
The intention of this bill is reasonable enough. But funding for under-grounding would come, in one way or another, from the broader state budget. We are therefore in this legislation asking taxpayers to fund under-grounding around the State.
The provision of infrastructure is a reasonable function of government, where an urgent need exists and where a market failure is present. These conditions are arguably met in Tokyo, which already has a highly sophisticated general infrastructure and where small aesthetic improvements could return more equity, due to high land and real estate values, then it would cost in public expenditures (and where it might be impossible for a private actor to fully capture that value).
These conditions are not present in New York State. Money spent on under-grounding could be spent on other, more critical priorities. For example, the construction of a bullet train from New York to Albany, or New York to East Hampton.
Given these more pressing needs for the funding of State infrastructure, we cannot justify the expenditure of public monies on this purpose. Therefore, regrettably, we oppose this legislation.
Alterations to the language of this bill so that it requires funding for under-grounding to come from the towns themselves would, in our view, improve this legislation.