ALBANY — The first legislative hearing on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2016-17 budget was met Wednesday with some head-scratching and not a little bit of frustration by lawmakers unable to get answers.
Assemb. James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) asked specifically how — such as borrowing or federal aid — the budget would pay for parts of Cuomo’s proposal for massive spending to improve the state’s aged roads, bridges and tunnels in need of repair or replacement.
“State funding,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll.
Assemb. David McDonough (R-Merrick) asked whether there are any plans to redesign “blood alley.” The notorious stretch of the Southern State Parkway in Nassau County got the name for the frequency of fatal accidents on the curve between Malverne and South Farmingdale.
Driscoll said he’d look into it and get back to the assemblyman.
Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Catharine Young (R-Olean), presiding over her first legislative hearing, asked when the Cuomo administration will provide its five-year plan for infrastructure, a basic element of such long-term spending.
“I suspect it will be at the conclusion of the budget season,” Driscoll said. “That’s a conversation between the Legislature and the executive.”
She prodded a bit more, then concluded: “So it’s a work in progress, you are saying now.”
Such give with little take in public legislative budget hearings is typical each year. But the lawmakers, in an election year, pressed especially hard to pin the governor down on specific projects back home in their districts, with little success.
The more detailed exchanges and decisions will be in the annual “three men-in-a-room” negotiations behind closed doors between Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (D-East Northport) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). Those talks, long criticized by good-government groups, will yield the biggest deals for the budget, which is due by April 1.