Only 22 percent of the $3.8 billion collected from highway taxes and fees each year goes to capital road projects, and the rest is diverted to cover state budget costs, a report today found.
DiNapoli and state officials have long railed against the use of the fund, which was established in 1991 to collect fees and taxes and fund road projects.
But the problem is getting worse. In 2009, DiNapoli said 35 percent of the money was used for road and bridge projects.
In 2012, DiNapoli estimated that New York faces a shortfall of up to $89 billion in funding for water, sewer and transportation infrastructure over the next two decades.
“Taxpayers have paid billions in taxes and fees into a fund that was created to keep our roads and bridges in good repair,” DiNapoli said. “Now, more than three-quarters of this money is siphoned off to pay for borrowing and operating costs of state agencies, leaving fewer dollars for improving our infrastructure.”
New York collects a gas tax, petroleum business tax, vehicle licensing fees and rental car tax that is funneled into the fund. But by 2002, debt payments had surpassed capital projects, and just 22.2 percent of $3.8 billion disbursements in the last fiscal year when to construction projects.
Most of the money, $1.6 billion, covered the cost of snow and ice removal by the state Department of Transportation and day-to-day staff expenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles, DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli said it’s problematic that staff expenses and snow and ice removal costs are being paid through a fund that it’s intended to pay for capital projects.
Even in the proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1, capital disbursements would account for 23.5 percent of all money collected.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office disputed DiNapoli’s findings, saying it paints a misleading picture of the state’s spending on infrastructure.
“The comptroller’s report misrepresents reality, leaving out major investments in transportation infrastructure, including $465 million through the New York Works program and $470 million in annual spending through the CHIPs program,” a federal program, said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the budget office.
“The state regularly uses debt-free general fund money when infrastructure needs exceeds the capacity of the Dedicated Fund, and the Executive Budget includes $600 million for that purpose,” Peters continued. “The comptroller seems to prefer that the Dedicated Fund stand on its own, which would result in an increase in gas taxes, or a drastic cut to infrastructure spending.”