Driving Federal Tax Dollars Back to Long Island
Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin
Every April 15th and every other day of the year, Long Islanders in some way open their wallets to cut an ever-growing check to Uncle Sam. While driving down taxes and the cost of living is always a foremost priority, we must ensure these hard-earned federal tax dollars go towards priorities important to New Yorkers and back into our communities.
During my first term in Congress, I helped usher into law a five-year, fully funded transportation bill that included my bipartisan Safe Bridges Act proposal, which reversed changes to federal law to once again make state and local overpasses and bridges, eligible for federal funding through the National Highway Performance Program. While this may seem like wonky, in-the-weeds policy, this fix has brought several tens of millions of dollars back to NY-1 for desperately needed infrastructure repairs, such as tens of millions in federal funding for Hospital Road Bridge and Smith Point Bridge. This is in addition to other important local projects I’ve helped secure funding for, such as $4.5 million for the repair of the Old Ponquogue Trestle Bridge and $1.5 million in federal funding for the construction of new sidewalks and curbs in Port Jefferson Station and Coram among other important local projects.
However, with our Congressional District nearly completely surrounded by water, our area’s infrastructure also includes our maritime infrastructure. In addition to tripling federal funding for the Long Island Sound Program and fully funding the National Estuary Program and Sea Grant Program, I’ve also worked hard to secure additional funding to keep our waterways safe.
Last year, after an unprecedented series of Nor’Easters, I secured over $15 million in federal funding for an emergency dredge of the Moriches Inlet, which was nearly completely filled in with sand, and a dredge of the Long Island Intracoastal Waterway. This emergency dredge is in addition to the many maintenance dredges that happen all along our shores like the $1.9 million in federal funding secured for the dredging of Lake Montauk. From Smith Point County Park to Montauk, I’ve worked hard to ensure we’re funneling Long Islanders’ hard-earned federal tax dollars into local projects that maintain our waterways.
While Long Island boasts world renowned beaches, it’s also home to advanced research facilities like Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University. The scientists and professors at these institutions are pioneering the future of science and innovation, and ensuring they have the funding to do so is critical. Just last week, I announced another $1.7 million in funding for Stony Brook University scientists to study some of the most common medical challenges Long Islanders face, including cancer, diabetes and mental illness. These most recent grants come on top of the millions of dollars they’ve received previously to help educate the next generation, protect our planet and pioneer the future of mathematics among other fields.
However, our incredible communities are nothing without those who serve us - our amazing law enforcement officers and first responders. Ensuring they have the equipment to safely and effectively do their jobs and return home to their families should always be our utmost priority. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership program, for which I helped lead the fight for full funding, reimburses state and local jurisdictions for up to 50% of the cost of body armor vests purchased for law enforcement officers. In 2018, this program helped provide this life saving equipment to Southampton, East Hampton, Westhampton Beach, Shelter Island, Sag Harbor and more.
In addition to our communities’ law enforcement officials, our firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect ours, which is why I’ve helped channel funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) back to local firehouses, such as Eastport, East Moriches, Westhampton Beach and Jamesport, to ensure they have the vital communications equipment they need to do their jobs.
We live in the most beautiful Congressional District in the country, but our communities also face unique challenges. Ensuring our hard-earned tax dollars are routed back into the neighborhoods we love has and will continue to be a top priority. Building on a track record of success, I know we can rise to meet these challenges together.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the House of Representatives.