Earlier this week, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an analysis of the State’s current debt limit that notes that New York is precariously close to its debt ceiling and is now the state with the second highest debt load in the country. DiNapoli specifically raised concerns that funding for state infrastructure projects remains particularly vulnerable. The report highlights that “before Hurricane Sandy hit, the State was already facing revenue challenges” and “the State’s shrinking debt capacity may force New York to short-change capital investments at a time when they are badly needed.”
The Comptroller’s assessment appears somewhat prescient in light of a Newsday article on Thursday suggesting that groundbreaking on the new Tappan Zee Bridge might be delayed as the New York State Thruway Authority awaits a decision from the federal government on a TIFIA loan request. One recommendation from the Comptroller stands out: that there needs to be a serious discussion about how we pay for public infrastructure.
More evidence of this problem can be seen in the MTA’s financing situation. The MTA was in financial distress before Superstorm Sandy hit with billions of dollars in needs for its upcoming 2015-2019 capital program. Assemblyman Brennan’s Bond Act proposal could be a short term fix, but a long term funding solution is still needed. Rather, as the Comptroller points out, in a time of constrained budgets, smart, sensible investments in transportation infrastructure are critical.