ny state ballot proposals: question 2



QUESTION 2: Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005

(summary prepared by the Campaign Finance Board)

This proposal authorizes the creation of State debt and the sale of State bonds in the amount of $2.9 billion to fund the maintenance and improvement of the State’s transportation infrastructure. The $2.9 billion would be evenly distributed between projects managed by the State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and projects managed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The $2.9 billion bond would be part of a larger five-year plan, comprised of a $17.9 billion transportation capital plan administered by NYSDOT and a $17.9 billion MTA transportation capital plan, which together are estimated to fund State transportation needs through 2010.


The money raised by selling the $2.9 billion in bonds would be spent only to improve, preserve, and restore the quality of New York’s transportation infrastructure, as follows:

  1. $1.45 billion for NYSDOT projects, including the planning and design, construction, improvement,
    and preservation of:
    1. State highways, bridges, and parkways;
    2. the canal system and connected property; and roads, bridges, and other projects related
      to the canal system;
    3. pedestrian or bicycle trails, pathways, and bridges;
    4. airports and aviation facilities and equipment; and roads, bridges, and other projects related to airports and aviation facilities;
    5. ports, marine terminals, and marine transportation facilities, except those under the control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;
    6. omnibus, mass transit, and rapid transit systems, facilities, and equipment, except those under the control of the MTA, the New York City Transit Authority, and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority; and
    7. urban, commuter, and intercity passenger rail, freight rail, and intermodal (multi-mode) passenger and freight facilities and equipment, except those under the control of the MTA and the New York City Transit Authority;
  2. $1.45 billion for MTA projects, including the planning and design, construction, improvement, and preservation of:
    1. urban and commuter passenger and freight rail, including $100 million earmarked for a Rail Link to the John F. Kennedy Airport; and
    2. omnibus, mass transit, and rapid transit systems (including $450 million earmarked for the Second Avenue Subway), and related facilities and equipment operated or acquired by or under control of the MTA and the New York City Transit Authority.

A more detailed description of how the $2.9 billion bond will be allocated is contained in the July 13, 2005 Joint Memorandum of Understanding issued by the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Assembly Speaker and its exhibits, which is on the website of New York State’s Division of the Budget, at http://www.budget.state.ny.us.





What You Will See on the Ballot


QUESTION 2. Rebuild And Renew New York Transportation Bond
Act of 2005–A Proposition

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?







Pro and Con Arguments(prepared by the Campaign Finance Board)

QUESTION 2: Transportation Bond Act

Reasons to Vote YES

  • New York State’s transportation infrastructure requires renovation and expansion. Statewide roads and bridges are in bad condition, and public transit systems operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) also need additional funding to bring them into good repair and to plan needed new routes.
  • The transportation plan will create economic growth and well-paying jobs. The MTA has calculated its larger capital program will generate $25.3 billion in economic activity and sales, and 16,000
    to 35,000 annual jobs for the next nine years.
  • The $2.9 billion bond is fairly split between funding transportation needs of the New York City area and greater New York State. The larger transportation plan also strikes a balance between supporting public transit and rail systems in New York City, including needed security improvements, and improving the State’s road and bridge, aviation, and public transit infrastructure.
  • The $2.9 billion bond is general obligation debt, sometimes considered “good debt,” and must be approved by voters. In contrast to this type of debt, New York State public authorities have issued approximately $37 billion in state-supported debt that was not approved by the voters, known as “back-door borrowing.” A voter-approved bond is a more open and responsible strategy for funding transportation needs.

Reasons to Vote NO

  • The State already has a large debt burden in the range of $40 – $50 billion, depending on the measure used. Even using the lower baseline, the State’s debt amounts to $2,593 per person, which is more than double the national average and which ranks fifth highest among the states in tax-supported debt per person. Issuing another $2.9 billion in debt will further harm the State’s financial position, jeopardize the State’s credit rating, and possibly result in increased taxes because of higher debt service spending.
  • The issuance of $2.9 billion in State bonds is only a small part of the much larger $35.8 billion State transportation plan. Borrowing $2.9 billion and increasing the State’s debt is therefore unnecessary to achieve the broad goals of the larger State transportation plan.









NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign (Gene Russianoff, Staff Attorney)

New York State AFL-CIO (press release)

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver



NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign (Gene Russianoff, Staff Attorney)

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign strongly supports the Transportation Bond Act.


In March, the state legislature approved a five-year rebuilding program for the downstate subway, bus and commuter systems. One of the programs key components is half ($1.45 billion) of a transportation bond act, the other half going to fix existing roads and bridges around the state, including in New York City.


The state-wide voter bond is an advance, as in the past the state has mainly borrowed the money and raised fares and cut services to pay for it. Borrowing - or debt service as it is called - continue to grow to 20% of the MTA budget. The bond - known as general obligation debt -is more responsible, giving the voters a say and asking the state to pay.


The $2.9 billion Transportation Bond Act would generate funds for:


SYSTEM EXPANSION: The Second Avenue subway and an LIRR extension to Grand Central Terminal, $450 million each.


SUBWAYS AND BUSES: 30 subway cars, 163 express and standard buses, about 25 miles of track replacement, a bus tracking system and repairs to six Staten Island Railway bridges.


HIGHWAY: Repairs at the Van Wyck Expressway’s Kew Gardens Interchange, the Pelham Parkway Bridge over the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Henry Hudson Parkway viaduct between 77th and 82nd Sts.





New York State AFL-CIO (press release, August 17, 2005)

New York State AFL-CIO Announces Endorsement of Transportation Bond Act (Labor Will Coordinate Statewide Grassroots Campaign)


The New York State AFL-CIO today announced its endorsement of the $2.9 Billion Transportation Bond Act. The State Labor Federation’s Executive Board voted unanimously to approve labor’s support.


Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO representing more than 2 million members throughout the state remarked, "The Bond Act allows us to fund projects that will enhance the economic health and well being of this state. At a time of diminished funding from Washington, the Bond Act provides us with an opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure and maintain New York’s economic viability for years to come.


"With more than two million members, our grassroots campaign organization is the most comprehensive and experienced in the state. The New York State AFL-CIO will coordinate a statewide labor campaign that will allow us to continue our history of uninterrupted success in Bond Act campaigns."


It should be noted that in all Bond Act initiatives that the New York State AFL-CIO has actively supported since 1978, the Bond Act prevailed. Of those which the State Federation did not support, all failed at the polls.





New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

The Rebuild and Renew Transportation Bond Act allows New York City voters a tremendous opportunity to determine the quality of our transit systems. If approved by voters, the Bond Act would authorize $2.9 billion for necessary mass transit improvements such as an environmentally sound bus fleet, more accessible transit centers, commuter rail projects and roads and bridges.


The bond act would provide much-needed resources for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year capital plan for keeping 2.4 billion riders on the move.


It would mean $450 million to complete the 8.5-mile Second Avenue Subway line, a critical project for ensuring a faster, more direct link between downtown and the far East Side.


Approving the Bond Act would mean East Side access to Manhattan through the allocation of $450 million for a new Long Island Rail Road Tunnel to Grand Central Terminal.


Other projects include $100 million for the JFK Rail Link from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan and $450 million for vital MTA maintenance.


A vote for the bond act will strengthen our city’s economy and create job opportunities, not only for upgrading and maintaining modern mass transit systems, but also for vital road and bridge infrastructure improvements.









Citizens Budget Commission

Steven K. Isler



Citizens Budget Commission

The Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) opposes the Transportation Bond Act (TBA). New York State already has too much debt. We should not vote to add to a debt load that already requires an uncompetitive tax burden.


The State now has $48 billion in outstanding debt, less than $4 billion of which was approved by the voters. The current year’s budget proposes to add $2.9 billion through the TBA and another $10.3 billion through "back door" mechanisms without the voters’ approval - for a total of $13.2 billion in additional debt. The only portion of this borrowing which the voters can influence is the TBA; it should be rejected as indication of taxpayer dissatisfaction with the State’s excessive overall borrowing.


The excessive nature of New York’s borrowing practices is evident in two ways: First, the State recently has borrowed about $8 billion to support operating expenses rather than to make capital investments. Second, New York’s debt is much greater than that of other states, even after adjustment is made for relevant factors such as the size of the economy and other long-term obligations. An analysis of debt affordability by the CBC shows that New York is in a "danger zone" with a debt load far greater than the average among the 50 states and exceeded by only four other states.





Steven K. Isler, Staten Island, NY

New York already boasts the nation’s second-highest per capita debt.


New York also has the nation’s second-worst credit rating.


Since 2000, when a similar $3,800,000,000 bond proposal was sensibly turned down by the voters, state debt has increased by over $12,000,000,000, despite the fact that the state constitution theoretically requires voter approval before the state borrows money. In fact, less than 10% of the current state debt of about $49,000,000,000 has been approved by the voters.


And let’s not even mention the $70,000,000,000 of debt incurred by "public authorities" that is not directly backed by state revenues. Whether you approve or not, the MTA will issue many billions of dollars of obligations beyond what the politicians are allowing you to vote on.


Interest payments may double or triple the amount borrowed before the bonds are paid off by the next generation.


Borrowing has increased even during years with budget surpluses. And much of the state’s borrowing goes to pay for operating expenses, rather than capital improvements. Such fiscal irresponsibility by both Republicans and Democrats has been going on for a long time. We must put a stop to it.


Vote "No" - once again - on the Transportation Bond Act.





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