Friday, November 20, 2009

New York shortchanged by elected officials

By now you may have heard about a recent report that showed roads and bridges in New York state are getting only one-third of the money they should be receiving.

That’s right. And while it’s no revelation that states raid one fund to help plug leaks elsewhere, it doesn’t make it any easier for the public – in this case, residents of the Empire State – to stomach such ghastly figures.

According to a report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, nearly $12 billion in highway and motor vehicle tax revenues the state has generated over the past two decades is siphoned off for other purposes.

In a report appropriately titled “Highway Robbery,” DiNapoli said the trend will continue to worsen unless changes are made.

It’s a grim outlook for road and bridge funding in New York. More money must be found. And it appears the desperate times are causing some state officials to crack under the weight of the burden.

That leads us to another point of contention in New York. The state is requiring drivers to buy new license plates this spring. Added to the current budget, the new $25 fee on plates – up from $15 – for car and truck drivers wasn’t scheduled to take effect until 2011, but it was pushed up a year to provide a $129 million shot in the arm for the state’s suffering economy.

Not only would the state budget get a jolt, but the Paterson administration said it was also a matter of safety. Apparently, the current plates’ reflectivity is fading, and the new $25 license plates – with dark blue and gold colors – were just what the doctor ordered to make the roadways safer.

Well, this is where things really started to get sticky for the administration. According to media reports, county clerks submitted more than 100,000 signatures earlier this week asking the state to abandon its pursuit of the fee.

The unrest couldn’t be ignored, and within a couple of days Gov. Paterson told an audience listening to WWRL-AM in New York City that the new fee on license plates was nothing more than a “revenue grab.” He said people don’t need new plates early.

Of course, there is no storybook ending to this tale. Paterson said the state still needs $129 million to make up for that revenue they were anticipating during this budget year.

It’s a travesty that taxpayers have to put up with these practices from their elected officials. No wonder they have lost our trust.

When it comes to rerouting revenues and fudging the facts to get what they want, lawmakers have long since crossed over the line in the sand. Who can blame us for being fed up with it all?