New York residents may soon see an additional $35.8 billion in funding for their state’s transportation system, as well as a proposed $2.9 billion transportation referendum that could be on the ballot as early as this fall.
The state’s $105 billion budget, which passed the Assembly March 31, must now be signed by Gov. George Pataki before it can take effect. The Albany Times Union reported that despite criticism that the plan will increase the state’s debt from $47 billion to $49 billion, it passed with overwhelming approval from both the Senate and the Assembly. It was the first time in more than two decades that the state’s budget was approved on time.
If Pataki OKs the budget, the $35.8 billion transportation allocation will be used for roads, bridges and mass transit programs. The governor must also approve the proposed $2.9 billion bond issue before a vote can take place, a plan which he has declined to support.
In 2000, voters rejected a similar bond issue for $3.8 billion, saying lawmakers were unclear about where the money would be allocated. Many upstate New Yorkers feared the money would not be evenly divided between statewide highways and New York City’s public transportation system, according to reports in The New York Times.
Lawmakers said the newly proposed $2.9 billion initiative will be divided evenly between upstate and downstate. So far, no specifics have been given for what the referendum money will cover, but lawmakers have promised to clearly outline its usage to prevent a repeat of the 2000 vote.