Spin Cycle

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State budget gets a $4.2 B surplus; now, how to spend it?

ALBANY -- Court settlements with banks and insurance companies have brought state government an unexpected $4.2 billion so far this fiscal year, a report released Monday showed.

Now Albany is getting down to the business of deciding how to spend it.

The court settlements were the result of major investigations involving Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin M. Lawsky,

The Cuomo administration released its first fiscal quarter financial plan Monday, which noted the surplus. The state’s fiscal year started April 1.

The fiscal report said Gov. Andrew Cuomo “is developing options for using the surplus prudently.” Those options include “one-time capital expenses, bolstering reserves and reducing debt.”

The biggest capital expense facing the state right now is the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge, one of Cuomo’s biggest initiatives and part of his re-election campaign. But how much bridge tolls would increase as a result of the nearly $4 billion span between Westchester and Rockland counties remain a big question.

So far, the Cuomo administration won’t say, although tolls will pay for a considerable chunk of the project. An early estimate last year indicated tolls on the bridge could nearly triple to $14, a figure Cuomo said was too high.

But the state budget is also facing an additional $1.26 billion cost. The federal government said the state owes that much for overbilling over two years. The Cuomo administration is appealing.

The surplus is significant in the $138 billion budget adopted in March.

 

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