Thruway Vote Comes Amid Possible Federal Clawback & Probe

On August 6th, the Thruway Authority Board of Directors is voting on whether or not to accept the proposed raid of almost $256 million in our clean water funds for construction of the New New York Bridge.

I am presenting the following remarks at the Board’s meeting and urging their rejection of Governor Cuomo’s clean water raid which will happen immediately prior to the vote in order to ensure members hear the concerns of New Yorkers unable to attend in person.

Remarks:

Thank you. I am Brendan Woodruff, the fiscal policy associate at Environmental Advocates of New York. I urge you to reject authorizing the authority to borrow Clean Water State Revolving Fund dollars to help construct the New New York Bridge.

Here are two reasons which warrant your rejection:

  • Claw back contingency plan. There isn’t one.
  • Authorities Budget Office investigation. There may be one.

There is widespread agreement that funds meant for clean water and sewage systems is a terrible way to pay for a bridge, especially when our communities are in such dire need of that money for its intended purpose. But important to your proceedings today, accepting this raid would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility given its potential impact on the Thruway Authority.

The federal government has already threatened to claw back misspent funds from the Authority. Region II Administrator Judith Enck told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Imagine our surprise when we learned that $511 million is being proposed to deal with rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge.” Nonetheless, the Cuomo Administration has barreled ahead. So, today, I ask you:  what is the Authority’s claw back contingency plan?

Thruway board members needn’t look far to see the consequences of misspending federal funds – right now the feds are clawing back at least $1.2 billion in misallocated funds through the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.

Moody’s has already downgraded the Thruway Authority’s own credit rating because of the failure to produce a full bridge financing plan. Allowing these funds to be spent knowing they may be yanked out from underneath the agency can’t be good for the Authority’s fiscal picture.

Board members have the opportunity to right this ship. Your expertise matters. It is your responsibility to ensure that the actions taken by the Authority are in the best interests of the citizens and toll payers of this state. And it is without question in their best interests for you to reject this resolution. Thank you.

Author: Brendan Woodruff

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