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.
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.