Does Cuomo’s Budget Include Tappan Zee Subsidies?

Governor Cuomo’s state budget proposal includes hundreds of millions of dollars in discretionary spending for what one administration official has called “transformational projects.” It’s not clear what the loosely-defined pot of money will be used for, but so far the rhetoric indicates that Cuomo’s wide, transit-less, double-span Tappan Zee replacement bridge could be one recipient.

Cuomo's budget includes discretionary money for "transformational projects." Photo: ##

This morning, the New York Daily News reported that Cuomo’s budget includes a huge $3 billion bucket of discretionary spending for the governor, including “$720 million in new capital funding for ‘transformative’ projects over the next few years.”

The financing plan for the Tappan Zee Bridge has always been vague. The Thruway Authority has already borrowed $500 million to start paying for the $3.9 billion project, and the Cuomo administration is hoping to get billions more in low-interest financing from the federal TIFIA program. (New York faces stiff competition from 28 other projects all clamoring for a piece of the $7.5 billion in available assistance.) The amount that can be obtained from TIFIA is capped at 49 percent of the total project cost, so that leaves a significant gap to be filled.

The fear has always been that Cuomo will prop up the super-sized highway bridge with general fund dollars, especially since his administration has already caved on using tolls to cover the cost of roads. The pot of vaguely-defined discretionary funds in Cuomo’s budget could include general fund support for the Tappan Zee replacement.

Streetsblog reached out to the governor’s office for more information on how these discretionary funds will be spent, but has yet to receive a reply.

Elsewhere in this year’s budget, you can see evidence of road subsidies creeping upward to make up for Cuomo’s lack of determination to raise tolls: The budget includes an increase in state support for the Thruway Authority to cover costs that would have been covered by a truck toll hike, which the governor-appointed Thruway Authority board canceled in December.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know whether this is more of a travesty on good government grounds or transportation grounds. Why choose, really. 

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The fear has always been that Cuomo will prop up the super-sized highway bridge with general fund dollars, especially since his administration has already caved on using tolls to cover the cost of roads.”
    I agree with a couple of points.  The bridge shouldn’t be super-sized, with (in effect and possibly in reality) 14 lanes, and there is no reason not to add ramps from two bus lanes in the center to allow easier connections for transit.

    But remember, people on this site objected to raising tolls to pay for the new bridge.  But it turns out the toll levels are very low compared with other downstate crossings.

    And as for using general fund revenues to pay for the bridge, remember how we got into this mess.  Governor Andrew Cuomo’s father, faced with a fiscal crisis far worse than anything since, pushed through the “big ugly” budget that loaded debt on to the Thruway Authority to pay for the general fund.  (Governor Mario Cuomo was then not re-elected, and under his successor we had one big ugly budget after another, but that’s another story).

    If was just the transit system that got raided and loaded with debt the past 20 years. They did the same thing with every revenue stream.  That’s why the existing Tappan Zee tolls can’t pay for a new bridge.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Ugh.  It WASNT just the transit system that got loaded with debt.

  • No one objected to raising tolls to pay for the bridge Larry. They objected to the fact that the new bridge was projected to be so expensive, tolls alone couldn’t cover the cost.

  • by any means necessary

    “transformational” as in transforming Andrew from governor to president.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I recall some folks starting to stir up opposition to the bridge by pointing out how much tolls would have to go up.  That was not a good idea.

    Anyway, whether for the roads or the MTA, the dedicated revenues are not going to be enough to cover required capital investments anymore, because so large a share of those revenues is going to past debts.

    And this isn’t just the issue with transportation.  Just look at the recent developments with regard to Medicaid, with the federal government cutting $1 billion from New York’s funding and perhaps demanding $15 billion in repayments due to past abuses here.

    “In a separate interview, state Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson said it is likely that the loss of up to $1.1 billion in annual Medicaid funding will require adjustments in aid to an array of recipients, not just those associated with the care of the developmentally disabled, and that a plan might be unveiled within a few weeks when Cuomo amends his proposed budget for next year. Helgerson said it would be “draconian” to apply the cuts only to the programs that received the excessive Medicaid payments, and wrong to shortchange services for some of New York’s most vulnerable patients.”

    In fact, why not take money from elsewhere, as if elsewhere is flush with cash.

    “Helgerson said he has been hoping that the state’s initiatives would produce money that would more than make up for lost funding. That reduced funding, he said, must be spread over many recipients of Medicaid.”

    “The issue has representatives of hospital and union groups worried about immediate impacts; some are urging that many areas of the budget absorb some of the expected $1.1 billion in lost Medicaid dollars to spread the pain beyond the health care components, according to several people in the health care industry who spoke on condition of anonymity.”Read more:

  • Miles Bader

    @disqus_wlgcE8xXNg:disqus I expect the usual position of people on this blog is “high tolls = awesome!”

    [Tolls on other bridges are much too low as well.]

  • Miles Bader

    It’s pretty telling that once there was even the slightest bit of pushback against Cuomo’s TZ plans, he immediately shifted into stealth mode…. he seems completely unable to work with anybody that isn’t a complete toady.  How did this guy get elected governor again?!

  • Larry Littlefield

     “I expect the usual position of people on this blog is “high tolls = awesome!”
    Right. That’s what surprised me.  Now in my case there is a limit on how high tolls can be to be awesome, but I was surprised how low the TZ bridge tolls are now compared with all the other tolls.

  • HamTech87

    @disqus_wlgcE8xXNg:disqus Why should support for high tolls for drivers surprise you?  Westchester towns are terrified by the emissions, increased car and truck volumes, and lack of transit on the bridge.  They realize that only a smaller bridge that has incentives for transit (i.e. higher car and truck tolls, longer travel times) will reduce the number of motorists coming over the bridge, and reinforce the TOD going on in downtown White Plains.  Assembly Member Abinanti, who represents the Greenburgh and the rivertowns along the east bank of the Hudson, has called for only one span being built (1/2 the lanes) and to keep the old bridge for BRT and ped/bike.


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