November 5, 2005

Vote No on Proposition 2

I know I shouldn't start my endorsements with a round of negativity, but it's best to get that out of the way. Proposition 2, the generously named "REBUILD AND RENEW NEW YORK TRANSPORTATION BOND ACT OF 2005", looks like:


To promote and assure the preservation, renewal and improvement of the state's roads and bridges; subways, trains and buses; waterways and airports; and other vital transportation systems, facilities and equipment for the benefit of the people of the state, shall section one of part I of chapter 60 of the laws of two thousand five, enacting and constituting the "REBUILD AND RENEW NEW YORK TRANSPORTATION BOND ACT OF 2005" authorizing the creation of a state debt in the amount of two billion nine hundred million dollars ($2,900,000,000) for the construction, improvement, reconditioning and preservation of transportation systems and facilities, including the acquisition of equipment, be approved?

You can see what's included in the full listing at the New York State Department of Transportation. Tompkins County will get:

This Bond Act project will support the purchase of four clean fuel hybrid-electric buses for the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit to be allocated throughout the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County. Statewide, this initiative will provide up to 250 alternative fuel buses to communities across New York State, helping to reduce emissions, enhance air quality, and increase bus fuel economy and bus component life.

The rest of the 250 buses seem to be dispersed carefully to ensure that every county gets something. I like the projects generally and some of them, especially those in Steuben County, are things I've wanted to see for a long time.

Still, I'm voting NO on this. Why? Because the state's debt just keeps climbing. Governor Nelson Rockefeller kicked off this binge in the 1960s, and our current state government looks for creative financing on a regular basis. At least this borrowing is coming before voters instead of sneaking through the various authorities, but the total looks ghastly, as the Syracuse Post-Standard reminds us:

New York already is the second-most indebted state in the nation, behind California. State debt now stands at about $48 billion. And that doesn't include $78.7 billion borrowed by 18 of New York's largest public authorities for their own purposes. The state comptroller estimates that by 2010, taxpayers will be spending nearly $6 billion a year just to pay off debt.

Large capital projects are routinely bonded, but I don't see anything here likely to repeat, say, the Erie Canal's ability to pay itself off and then a lot more. Instead, this seems to be deferred taxation, with interest. Today's politicians can get credit for the projects, while tomorrow's politicians will have to explain to taxpayers again why they have to pay it off.

As the Albany Times-Union reminds us, Rockefeller was elected on the slogan "Pay As You Go". It's time for New York State to get back to what Rockefeller said, not what he did.

Posted by simon at November 5, 2005 11:37 AM in ,
Note on photos