ALBANY — In the final hours of this year’s legislative session, lawmakers passed a massive “big ugly” bill that jacks up state spending on capital projects by $1.26 billion.
The package addresses some worthy causes.
It directs $100 million to the troubled New York City Housing Authority, specifically to tackle lead contamination.
That’s on top of a total of $550 allocated to NYCHA over the past three years. But none of that money has been released because of a backup in the project schedule at the agency.
“It’s not just money, it’s management,” Cuomo complained of the logjam.
“The public housing authority has been notorious for poor performance, has an innocuous board . . . everybody is a political appointee and literally, it can’t run the housing stock.”
There’s also $500 million allocated to the state’s Economic Development Fund.
Of that amount, $425 million is funneled to a pet Cuomo project: renovating Penn Station, which includes constructing a new entrance at the southwest corner at West 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue.
Another $25 million is dedicated to beef up hate-crime protections for the safety and security of non-public schools, camps and daycares. Public help to bolster security has been a top priority of New York City’s yeshivas amid a spate in reports of anti-Semitic attacks.
Other items funded: $100 million to address Lake Ontario flooding, $20 million for libraries and $30 million for private colleges.
One education official questioned providing $30 million to subsidize private colleges while public colleges complain of under-funding for maintenance.
“It’s a taxpayer subsidy for a private interest. It speaks for itself. This is a result of the political clout of private colleges and universities,” the source said.
Critics complained the “big ugly” is a slush fund — approved outside of the state budget that was passed in April.
The capital outlay also includes a $385 million State and Municipal Facilities Fund, which funds a lot of pet programs favored by legislators for their districts. But that spending was listed in lump sums, rather than spelled out in individual line items.
“This is basically member items on steroids. In place of small legislative grants for Little League uniforms and senior citizens’ meal programs, we have larger capital allocations for local amenities that previously always were, and should remain, primarily the responsibility of local taxpayers [not the state] — everything from skateboard parks to gazebos, highway garages, you name it,” said E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center.
“Member items amounted to $100 million or so a year at their peak. With the latest annual addition of $385 million, this program now has been authorized to spend a total of more than $2.3 billion, on practically any capital purpose a politician can cook up.”
McMahon said the capital projects are financed with borrowed money, “effectively diverting scarce capital resources from core infrastructure needs.”
“It’s a completely indefensible program,” he added.
The bill also included several technical cleanups to legislation passed during the session, including edits to the rent reform laws and a boost in borough judges from Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island.
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