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Comptroller criticizes NYS usage of highway, bridge fund

ALBANY -- Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report Wednesday criticizing the states usage of money collected for long-term infrastructure.

In the 1990s the legislature created a Dedicated Highway and Bridge Fund to hold money collected from gasoline tax, DMV and DOT fees and other places for long term projects to improve roads and infrastructure.

DiNapoli estimates of the nearly $4 billion collected last year only 22 percent went to its intended cause with the rest going to more day-to-day projects like snow removal and DMV operations.

We're paying many of those costs through the dedicated fund. The function is essential, but we should not be using a long term capital fund to pay those costs, said Bob Ward, Deputy Comptroller for Budget and Policy. We know we're always going to need well-built highways, safe bridges and a good infrastructure overall so we need to have a steady stream of revenue for that because the year to year  budget process sometimes the concentration is on immediate resources.

The DMV and DOT referred CBS 6 to the Division of Budget, which blasted the report in an emailed statement.

The Comptrollers report misrepresents reality, leaving out major investments in transportation infrastructure, including $465 million through the New York Works program and $470 million in annual spending through the CHIPs program. The State regularly uses debt-free general fund money when infrastructure needs exceed the capacity of the Dedicated Fund, and the Executive Budget includes $600 million for that purpose. The Comptroller seems to prefer that the Dedicated Fund stand on its own, which would result in an increase in gas taxes, or a drastic cut to infrastructure spending, said DoB spokesman Morris Peters.

At the end of the Comptrollers report he recommended a comprehensive review of all funding mechanisms, including New York Works to ensure safe roads for the future.

We need to do a better job of knowing what are the assets that we currently have, said Ward. What is the condition of those assets and what do we need to be doing in the coming year, five, ten years down the road to make sure we will always have a safe and reliable transportation system.

 
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