New York’s newly enacted state budget includes what looks like the biggest, juiciest capital pork pie Albany has cooked up since before the Great Recession.

The State and Municipal Facilities Program first popped out of the budget oven last year in the form of a $385 million appropriation, of which $26.65 million was spent.

800px-sow_with_piglet-150x150-8325620The program parameters were pretty broad to start with, authorizing funding of capital construction, rehab or improvement of facilities owned by the state, county governments and municipalities; water and sewer districts; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and both SUNY and CUNY.

The new budget doubles the program appropriation to $770 million, and expands the funding eligibility list to include facilities owned by school districts, housing authorities, library systems, fire districts and private non-profit colleges and universities.

So, within those exceedingly broad parameters, exactly who will decided how the money gets spent? What’s the process here?

Funny you should ask. As drily noted in the state comptroller’s preliminary budget analysis:

It is unclear how these funds will be allocated. The Enacted Budget does not include specific language that provides for the distribution of these moneys among the various purposes or between the various entities authorized to receive funding.

One way or another, it all adds up to a lot of potential election-year ribbon cutting.

The State and Municipalities Facilities Program is not to be confused with larger, catch-all category of bonded capital for “economic development” purposes, such as the Buffalo Billion and other largesse doled out by the Cuomo administration on a region-by-region basis.

Including another $1.2 billion for economic development, the budget authorized total new indebtedness of $7.6 billion. The biggest item on the new borrowing list is the proposed $2 billion “Smart Schools Bond Act,” which will require voter approval in November. The rest consists of non-voter approved backdoor borrowing — which, in addition to economic development, includes another $1.2 billion for a new healthcare-related Capital Restructuring Financing Program, $940 million for higher education, $714 million for transportation, $396 million for state facilities, $168 million for parks and the environment, $154 million for housing and $60 million for other purposes.

As of 2011, New York State’s net outstanding long-term debt came to $3,800 per person, which was 186 percent of the national average.


About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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