State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is out today with a new report on New York State’s public authorities. He counts 1,169 of them, including 324 on the state level, 837 local authorities and eight “Interstate/International.”
Authority debts total nearly $244 billion, including $58 billion in bonds issued on behalf of the state government itself — i.e., “backdoor borrowing” that circumvents the state constitutional preference for voter approval of state debt.
Instead of raising $85 million by hiking commercial tolls 45 percent, the state Thruway Authority will be shifting at least $60 million in State Police Thruway patrol costs to the state budget’s general fund. That’s the apparent upshot of today’s announcement by Governor Cuomo and the Thruway Authority’s chairman, as reported by the Albany Times Union. It’s good news for transportation companies and their customers, if not necessarily taxpayers in general. But it’s also a bit mystifying.
Given the state’s $1 billion projected general fund gap for fiscal 2013-14 (not counting any negative impacts from Superstorm Sandy), it’s a bit of surprise to learn the state has $60 million to spare. Perhaps Cuomo’s Budget Division thinks there are significant savings to be achieved by redeploying some “Troop T” officers to duties off the Thruway — making the net budget impact far less than $60 million. If this is the case, why the drawn out toll-hike drama in the first place? (By the way, the fiscal 2013 general fund budget for State Police, excluding the Thruway patrol, is $454 million.)
Declining bridge and tunnel traffic is one of the factors cited by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as justification for its proposed toll and fare increase, which has met with a predictable reaction from Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie. But a closer look at the PA’s original traffic projections suggest they may have been inflated to start with.
Are New York’s public authorities fixed? Little more than a week ago, Gov. Paterson signed a bill to “rein in” New York’s “free-spending public authorities.”
But State Senator Bill Perkins of Harlem thinks that the convolutions New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) put itself through to get the Atlantic Yards basketball arena funded “vitiate the longstanding efforts of the Legislature to reform public authorities and make them more accountable and transparent.”
Moreover, Atlantic Yards may not even pass muster under the law, Perkins says.
How could that happen? (more…)
The Senate today also passed the so-called Public Authorities Reform Act previously approved by the Assembly and backed by Governor Paterson–complete with a form of super card-check for unions seeking to organize authority-sponsored hotel and convention center development projects.
The headline on the Senate’s Majority press release announcing the bill’s passage deserves a special niche in Albany’s jam-packed Pantheon of Preposterous Claims.
What does a tiny Arab emirate have in common with the NBA’s worst team, which currently plays in New Jersey? And why should the answer matter to a taxpayer in Buffalo or Syracuse? Nicole connects the dots in a timely op-ed in today’s New York Post.
A few thoughts on the late-breaking Albany deal to pass the so-called Public Authorities Reform Act, now stalled for good reason in the Senate after passing in the Assembly:
Not for the first time, some of New York’s well-meaning good-government advocates are being suckered by a bill title. Like most legislation trumpeted as “reform” in Albany, this measure’s modest virtues are being grossly exaggerated even as its negatives are being ignored, minimized or overlooked.
The bill stems from the pretense that public authorities are, as Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Harrison) put it, “Soviet-style bureaucracies” that amount to a “secret, shadow government.”
In fact, because they are subject to the discipline of the bond market, the state’s major public authorities are far more transparent than the typical state agency.