ALBANY – Never shy about disagreeing with state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Cuomo administration today is fighting back against comments the Democratic comptroller made about the Democratic governor’s Thruway Authority.
In a written response to questions from the Buffalo News about a planned 45 percent Thruway toll hike on trucks, DiNapoli on Tuesday said the increase would hurt businesses during a struggling economy. He raised the possibility of conducting an audit of the agency – as called for by Unshackle Upstate this week. And he sharply criticized Thruway officials for not aggressively moving on cost-cutting suggestions he made to the agency several years ago.
“Where was the comptroller the last five years when all of these financial mistakes were being made?’’ a Cuomo administration official said this morning. The official noted the Thruway Authority contracted with an outside firm before proposing the rate increase; the firm found oversight and management problems at the agency contributed to a financial problem that now needs to be addressed by toll hikes.
Cuomo has not yet given his position on the 45 percent toll increase plan, though he has suggested new revenues are needed by the agency. Thruway officials, in a recent bond issuance document, said they saw “no reason’’ why their toll increase plan would face any major changes.
The comptroller's office, without specifically saying so yet, rather strongly disagreed with the thinking of the Cuomo administration. A spokesman fired off via email a series of audits and financial reviews DiNapoli has conducted the past five years -- on everything from overcharging for gasoline at Thruway rest stops to failure to collect penalties, late fees and other revenues from E-ZPass customers.
With his own set -- though on-the-record -- jabs at DiNapoli jabs, the Thruway's executive director, Thomas Madison, this afternoon responded to the comptroller's concerns, saying the financial problems at his agency were the result of "years of poor management and reckless financial decisions, which were left completely unchecked by every part of state government.''
Madison said new leadership under Cuomo ordered an outside review, which recommended bringing tolls on trucks in line with other nearby states and ending a practice of borrowing to pay for Thruway operating expenses.
Madison said his agency is taking steps to cut costs "after years of inaction from state government.''
-- Tom Precious
taggedAlbany | Andrew Cuomo