Aided by a $1.3 billion state bailout, the state Thruway Authority on Monday approved a 2015 budget that includes no toll increase this year and directs $909 million to fund the ongoing construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson Valley.

The new budget figures come after the board that oversees the 570-mile thoroughfare last December took the unusual step of passing a $1.7 billion budget with a $25 million revenue shortfall.

In the state budget approved April 1, however, the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed $1.3 billion of a $5 billion windfall from bank settlements to the Thruway Authority.

The move solidified the agency’s troubled finances as it deals with building the new $3.9 billion bridge, making system-wide road repairs and dealing with stagnant revenue from tolls. And the Thruway was able to lower its toll revenue projections by $300 million through 2018, closing an expected budget gap that signaled a potential toll increase in future years.

“After a relatively short amount of time, after a three-month period, we basically got the authority’s books in order, and we will continue to work to do that in the future,” said Robert Megna, the agency’s executive director, said at its board meeting.

The Thruway’s budget includes $22 million in spending cuts and nearly $44 million in reduced debt payments, the agency said. The Thruway’s fiscal year started Jan. 1, and the new budget also allowed the agency to put off $57 million in Tappan Zee Bridge payments until 2016.

Of the $1.3 billion from the state, about $750 million will go to the new bridge between Westchester and Rockland counties. The bridge is expected to open in 2018, but the Thruway Authority has yet to detail how the bridge will be fully funded and what the tolls would be. The current round-trip toll is $5.

Overall, the Thruway’s capital plan for this year includes $909 million for the bridge; $321 million for Thruway road repairs and $52 million for upgrades to the canal system, which the Thruway also manages, according to Matt Howard, the agency’s chief financial officer.

It also includes the elimination of 156 positions at the Thruway Authority and 16 positions at the Canal Corp., but it appears the majority of those are vacant jobs.

“The modified 2015 plan that has been prepared begins our efforts to provide a balanced financial plan by reducing operating costs and debt service and making no toll adjustments in 2015,” the Thruway’s budget states.

The Thruway’s finances have been tenuous in recent years, and business groups in 2012 beat back a 45 percent toll increase that was proposed for trucks. The Thruway last raised tolls in 2010.

Even as of December, the Thruway’s financial picture appeared troubled. The budget documents then showed a $300 million gap between projected revenue and expenses in 2018. To close that gap, tolls would have needed to increase 45 percent by 2018.

About 96 percent of the Thruway Authority’s $689 million in total revenue in 2014 came from tolls. So the state’s $1.3 billion infusion to the Thruway appears to have steadied its finances as it builds the new bridge.

The Thruway estimated that it will budget $2.8 billion by 2019 to fund the bridge’s construction.

“The settlement cash provides the Thruway Authority with enough budget relief to put off a toll increase for a few more years,” said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for State Policy, a fiscally conservative group in Albany. “However, we still need to see a full financing plan for the new bridge.”

© 2015 Gannett News Service

You may also like

Faced with $10B deficit, MTA says it’s eyeing cutting overtime spending

Alfonso Castillo The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is adding urgency to the agency’s efforts to curtail overtime numbers that critics say remain alarmingly high. The MTA said at Wed Read More

EDITORIAL: End the LIRR gravy train

The MTA's accountability and time management issues differ with each branch. At New York City Transit, there are questions about whether all employees work their full shifts. Because of the size of those operations, that's where more taxpayer and rider dollars are. At the LIRR, which is governed by the Federal Railway Labor Act, a lack of modern record keeping allows overtime abuses. A report by the Empire Center watchdog organization showed some stunning examples. Read More

EDITORIAL: OFF THE RAIL$ (RAILS) Behind the Tough Talk

Notably, the OT surge was highest at the Long Island Rail Road, up 30 percent last year and more than double the 2013 level, the Empire Center reports. And The Post has highlighted some hard-to-swallow extreme LIRR cases, with one guy working the equivalent of 16 hours a day for the whole year. Read More

EDITORIAL: Here’s how the LIRR union contracts send overtime soaring

The LIRR racked up $225 million in OT last year, according to the Empire Center — consuming nearly a third of the $740 million in fares Long Island commuters pay. Put another way, without this burden, the average commuter riding from Huntington to Penn Station every day could pay $253, not $363. Read More

MTA To Investigate Reports Of $400M In Employees’ Overtime Pay

Despite a year fraught with delayed, canceled and stalled trains, as well as the seventh fare hike in less than a decade, a new study released by Empire Center found that MTA’s overtime rose by nearly 16 percent last year. Read More

77 LIRR Employees Made More Than $250K Last Year

The number of LIRR employees who made more than $250,000 increased by nearly 50 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to payroll data found on the Empire Center for Public Policy's transparency website, SeeThroughNY.net. Read More

EDITORIAL: Fix New York state’s overtime and pension abuses

New Yorkers were shocked by the recent revelation by the Empire Center for Public Policy that Long Island Rail Road Chief Measurement Operator Thomas Caputo received more than $344,000 in overtime payments last year, bringing his total salary to more than $460,000. Equally alarming is that this outlandish number will become the basis upon which his pension payment is calculated, which is expected to exceed $162,000 a year. Read More

EDITORIAL: Baby steps toward ending the LIRR’s overtime abuse

Wise moves. Following a recent Empire Center report, The Post has spotlighted outrageous MTA overtime abuse, particularly at the LIRR, where one worker pulled in nearly a half-million bucks in 2018, thanks to 3,864 OT hours. Logging 4,157 extra hours, another boosted his pay nearly sixfold. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo "...the Empire Center is the think tank that spent months trying to pry Covid data out of Mr. Cuomo's government, which offered a series of unbelievable excuses for its refusal to disclose...five months after it (the Empire Center) sued, Team Cuomo finally started coughing up some of the records." -Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2021

SIGN UP TO READ ABOUT THE ISSUES IMPACTING NEW YORKERS.