BUFFALO, NY – At a public hearing of the New York State Thruway Authority Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) provided testimony opposing proposed toll increases along the New York State Thruway. The Congressman discussed findings included in State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s recent audit and unfulfilled promises on construction in Western New York in his remarks at the hearing.
“The Thruway Authority is playing a disturbing numbers game,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “They deceptively tell the public they need more tolls to fill budget holes they have created by failing to provide reasonable assumptions for federal revenue.”
According to the audit recently released by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, even by conservative measures, the Authority has underestimated federal aid by a minimum of $125 million for a 5-year budgetary period.
Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit finds, “between 1988 and 2007, the Authority received an average of $33.5 million a year in Federal highway funding. It therefore seems that the Authority’s projected average of $4.9 million a year in such funding is unreasonably low.” The audit further claims, “It would be reasonable for the Authority to estimate at least $30 million a year in Federal highway funding (this is consistent with the past average of $33.5 million a year). Adjusted estimates in this manner would result in an additional $125.3 million being available…”
“Rather than basing federal aid on historic trends as done through typical accounting procedures, the Authority appears to be deliberately underreporting the funding they receive and padding their budgetary pockets when new toll revenue and actual federal dollars come in,” Higgins added.
Higgins also noted the Thruway Authority justified their 2005 toll increase with the need to fund several local projects which never came to fruition. “This represents a disturbing pattern of promises made and promises broken by the Authority,” Higgins said. “This public Authority has used their absolute power to impose an unnecessary 45% increase in tolls in just five years. By needlessly and outrageously increasing the tolls the Thruway Authority is taking advantage of the hard-working people of Western New York.”
Between 2007 and 2010 the Authority will fall $200 million short in promised projects in the Thruway’s Buffalo Division.