Judging from the sad condition of New York's roads, bridges and other such public works, you might think the state had no coherent planning process for updating and improving its infrastructure.
You'd be right. A new report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the state's system for prioritizing and funding public works is incoherent. New York doesn't even gather the kind of consistent, in-depth information that could enable leaders to set intelligent priorities. We borrow way too much, and too often this borrowing is done by public authorities, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, that aren't subject to the electorate. Albany uses some of the money it borrows to pay for maintenance rather than capital projects - a tried-and-true way to get into budget trouble later.
In fact, some state agencies mix maintenance allocations into their capital spending plans, so it's impossible to know how much goes for upkeep versus construction.
DiNapoli reiterates some good recommendations he's made in past reports, including limiting the use of public-authority debt, adopting a strict borrowing cap and submitting bond issues to the voters. He also wants Albany to make state agencies adopt consistent, objective criteria for assessing capital needs - and for agency capital plans to be reflected in the legislature's spending. Imagine. hN