Paterson: Transportation Plans ‘Simply Unaffordable’

ALBANY—In what may well be an exercise in budgetary saber-rattling, David Paterson just pooh-poohed five-year plans for funding the M.T.A. as well as upstate roads and bridges as "simply unaffordable given New York's current fiscal condition."

Paterson indicated he would support neither plan, and said that "if the Legislature does not work with me to address the budget deficit, it will become increasingly difficult to enact a necessary and affordable road and bridge plan for New York."

Paterson today also tasked legislative leaders to come up with ideas for bridging the state's current budget gap, which is at least $2.1 billion. He has staked his political rehabilitation to his fiscal management, and tasked Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch with much of nitty-gritty work.

In May, lawmakers passed (and Paterson signed) a bill to bail the M.T.A. out of a multibillion-dollar deficit, but the amount dedicated to capital projects downstate was about $10 billion short.

To the dismay of Republicans playing a regionalist card, no provisions at the time were made for upstate roads and bridges; a plan was released today by the Department of Transportation.

"This is exactly what they worried about in May—not getting some source of funding nailed down for both plans at the same time," said Neysa Pranger, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Transportation Alliance. She said that the un-enacted parts of the M.T.A. capital plan could result in later phases of marquis projects like the Second Avenue Subway being stalled.

Here's the statement from David Paterson:

"Today the State Department of Transportation submitted their proposed 2010-2015 five year capital program as required by the MTA financing legislation I signed into law earlier this year.
I commend Acting Commissioner Gee and his staff for their work in submitting this plan and pointing out the infrastructure investments needed to renew our transportation system.
Unfortunately this plan, and the plan the MTA submitted on October 1, are simply unaffordable given New York's current fiscal condition. I will not agree to raise taxes, which would be required to fund these plans, as Congress has not renewed the federal multi-year transportation program and State revenues continue to decline.
If the Legislature does not work with me to address the budget deficit, it will become increasingly difficult to enact a necessary and affordable road and bridge plan for New York. We cannot afford a multi-year plan until the economy improves, the federal government provides adequate multi-year funding, and the Legislature joins me to seriously address the structural imbalance in the state budget. This plan must be need based; fiscally prudent without relying heavily on bonding; balance transit, rail and highway needs; and support the economic growth of New York."