They Vote Tomorrow on Clean Water Raid

On July 16, the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) will vote on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s dangerous plan to raid more than a half billion in public dollars meant for our clean water infrastructure to instead help pay for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The PACB should reject the proposal and elected representatives should demand that Governor Cuomo finally be forthcoming with how the public will be impacted by his plans.
Everyone agrees on the need for a new bridge, but the Governor’s lack of a proper financing plan shouldn’t fall on the backs of our communities struggling with $36 billion in unmet clean water infrastructure needs. Governor Cuomo promised to make bridge construction the most transparent public works process in history. Instead he has made it one of the secretive by refusing to release information about the $511 million loan his Environmental Facilities Corporation wants to give his Thruway Authority. In several instances, his administration has openly mocked and attacked public servants and advocates requesting basic information, such as the Thruway Authority’s official loan application required under state law.
To say that opposition is growing would be a severe understatement. In the month since details first came to light, eight editorial boards – from the Buffalo News, to the Middletown Times Herald Record to the New York Times – have weighed in urging the Governor to drop this proposal. They have noted the outstanding clean water needs our communities have, and the dangerous precedent this unilateral action could set nationwide.
Dozens of state legislators have also weighed in against this plan, as has the Westchester Municipal Officials Association, which represents the town, villages and cities within that county who noted that the “true intention” of the fund being raided was to help communities which are struggling to access the resources necessary to upgrade their clean water infrastructure.
It doesn’t stop there. The New York Water Environment Association – which counts among its members municipal clean water professionals – has urged the PACB to reject this plan because “using dedicated wastewater infrastructure funds to fund the loan package…may create a bad precedent that could open the door for future borrowing of EFCCWSRF funds for other non-wastewater infrastructure or non-water quality related projects.”
Governor Cuomo should drop this plan. The PACB should reject this plan. And every New Yorker should be concerned with the long-term and severe ramifications this action will have on our communities, and on how federal funds allocated under the Clean Water Act can be used by executives nationwide.