Report: New York road fund gets shortchanged

| 11/11/2009

Roads and bridges in New York state are getting only one-third of the money they should be getting, according to a report from the state comptroller. While alarming, the figure isn’t shocking to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

It is hard enough for transportation departments throughout the country to come up with funding to maintain and build new capacity to satisfy demand. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report, which shows that nearly $12 billion in highway and motor vehicle tax revenues the state has generated over the past two decades is siphoned off for other purposes.

In a report titled “Highway Robbery,” DiNapoli said the trend will continue to worsen unless changes are made.

Since 1991, only 35 percent – or $11.6 billion – of the money in the highway and bridge trust fund was used for repair and improvement of the state’s roads and bridges. DiNapoli warns that the percentage of capital spending on roads will continue to worsen in the near future.

According to the report, capital spending on roads will dip to 21 percent in four years. The state will need to transfer $4 billion from the general fund to the highway and bridge trust fund over the next five years in order to pay current bills.

With the bulk of the $33 billion fund going for other purposes, the state is unable to foot the bill for a proposed five-year, $26 billion capital plan for roads and bridges.

Gov. David Paterson recently rejected the plan from the New York Department of Transportation. He cited a lack of money available to the state.

OOIDA says the gross pilfering of transportation funds isn’t isolated to New York.

“It’s endemic. The amount of money that’s been siphoned from the taxes that highway users pay to other unrelated purposes is probably similar,” said Mike Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs.

When it comes to rerouting revenues, Joyce said lawmakers at every level of government have long since crossed over the line in the sand.

“Truckers and other highway users should be fed up with politicians redirecting money that is supposed to be dedicated for an intended purpose,” he said.

Joyce said the problem in New York highlights why people don’t trust their elected officials.

“Trust needs to be earned between those that spend the money and those that provide the money. There is not a balance today between those two parties.

“There has been this sense among lawmakers that the money will keep flowing and it will be used for whatever purpose is deemed necessary. That is what has built this mistrust between taxpayers and politicians that are spending their hard-earned dollars.”

Among the recommendations made by DiNapoli to improve their situation are better planning and use of the trust fund, as well as regular updates on how the money is spent.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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