A key state senator who can single-handedly block a $511 million loan for the Tappan Zee Bridge project says he wants a full financing plan before he gives his OK.
In a television interview Tuesday, Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, didn’t rule out a “no” vote on the controversial loan, which would come from the state Environmental Facilities Corp. to the Thruway Authority, which owns the bridge. DeFrancisco is one of three voting members of the Public Authorities Control Board, which must unanimously approve the loan before it can be executed.
“That’s one thing I want to get out of that meeting, whenever it happens,” DeFrancisco said Tuesday on Time Warner Cable News’ Capital Tonight. “In order to decide one component of finance, you’ve got to know the whole financial package. That’s going to be a big revelation to a lot of people, where someone is going to have to come up with a quick decision of what they’re going to do.
The Environmental Facilities Corp. unanimously approved the loan — half with no interest, half with an interest rate of no more than 4 percent — at its annual meeting last week. The Thruway Authority must also approve the loan before it gets to the Public Authorities Control Board, which also counts Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Budget Director Bob Megna and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, as voting members.
But environmental groups have raised concerns with the loan, which would come from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund — which has traditionally been used to finance local sewer projects. EFC officials counter that it can also be used for water-quality projects in national estuaries — the Hudson River is part of one — and the loan would fund projects that would improve the Hudson.
The loan would be slated for more than a dozen projects associated with the bridge project, including the dismantling of the current bridge, but wouldn’t directly finance construction of a new span.
UPDATED: Matthew Driscoll, president and CEO of the Environmental Facilities Corp., said the members of the Public Authorities Control Board will “be fully briefed on these loans, as they are with all items that come before them.”
“The EFC loans for the New NY Bridge project are expected to save the Thruway Authority about $17 million over three years and will help keep tolls on the new bridge as low as possible,” Driscoll said in a statement Wednesday. “The loan will fund only required environmental protections and mitigation measures related to the project.”
DeFrancisco sounded a skeptical tone.
“This (fund) has to do with water quality,” he said. “I don’t know how you translate that into a bridge. Maybe they can enlighten me when they have the meeting.”
The Public Authorities Control Board is next set to meet July 16. DeFrancisco said he’s hopeful the Tappan Zee loan won’t be on the agenda so the board can have more time to analyze it.
“I have no compunction at all about voting no if it’s not the proper use of money or there’s not a full financing plan, because the people should know how they’re paying this thing — not get a bill sent to them after it’s half built saying we have no choice,” DeFrancisco said.
(Photo by Ricky Flores / The Journal News)