November 24, 2014
By Peter Iwanowicz
Albany, NY – It is shameful that as communities across the state struggle to find the funding to repair crumbling sewage systems and drinking water supplies, we learn that the Cuomo Administration was working in secret for more than a year to divert more than a half a billion dollars from clean water funds to pay for a new bridge.
The manner in which this plan was devised, advanced and approved is beyond reproach. Governor Cuomo should let this plan go, and the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) board should immediately direct staff to aggressively move these funds to the communities that are in desperate need of it.
Our report reveals for the first time the breathtaking details of how the Cuomo Administration set out to raid clean water funds with as little due process, oversight and accountability as possible. The Authorities Budget Office believes the Environmental Facilities Corporation, willfully dismissed standards for public notice and comment, failed to properly engage an independent effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and advanced a p)urocess that lacked transparency and disclosure. According to the ABO, the EFC board defers too much to staff and must increase its engagement and better adhere to state law governing its make-up and procedures in order to protect public interests.
It has been clear that reforms of the EFC process are needed and this report identifies some key areas in which to act. As the 2015 Legislative Session gets underway, we urge the Legislature to conduct the necessary oversight and pass laws that will clean up the operations of the clean water funding programs and ensure these funds are used for their intended purpose.
Though we are deeply dismayed by the content, we are grateful for the independent work of the ABO in examining the actions of the EFC and its board. It is time to fix the broken process, drop efforts to raid this fund, and finally move forward with the vital clean water infrastructure projects that our communities need.”
***Peter Iwanowicz is Executive Director of the Authorities Budget Office.