A $5B Question: How Should NY Spend Surplus?

ALBANY (AP) -

As government problems go, it’s not a bad one to have: How should New York spend a $5 billion surplus?

The options are all big-ticket items. The $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement. Schools. Upgrades to subways. Statewide broadband access. Highways, water and sewer projects.

The money comes from big settlements with banks and insurance companies.

For a state with a long list of wants, the windfall provides an unexpected opportunity to invest in something big. But in Albany, even $5 billion only goes so far, and the battle over how to spend it is already brewing.

“A lot of people are [greedily] eyeing that pile of cash,” said Michael Elmendorf, president of the Associated General Contractors of New York State, who wants the money to go to fix crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure. “It’s a unique situation. You’ve got this pile of found money.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the surplus should support “one-time allocations” — and not expensive new programs that would need to be supported in future years.

Roads, bridges and other types of infrastructure are at the top of the list for many. The American Society of Civil Engineers says 60 percent of the state’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

“Our local communities could use funding for highways, for bridges,” said Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos. “That’s where our focus should be.”

The decision is likely to be made early next year when lawmakers and Cuomo take up the state budget.