Press Releases

CONTACT:
Press Office
(518) 474-4015

 FOR RELEASE:

Immediately
April 12, 2004


Hevesi and Spitzer Announce Coalition to Promote Reform of Public Authorities and Greater Accountability
State Public Authority Debt Totals Exceeds $114.6 Billion


State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today joined representatives of 35 organizations representing a broad-based coalition of business, civic, environmental, labor, good government and other groups to urge legislative action on reform of the State’s public authorities.

When the proposed reform legislation was issued in February, reporters asked how much authorities spend, but the data was not available. Since then the Comptroller’s Office has surveyed 212 state public authorities and two international or bi-state authorities and found:

  • These authorities have approximately $114.6 billion in outstanding debt – 28 times more debt than the $4 billion issued by New York State, and a figure larger than New York State’s budget and the budgets of any other State except California.
  • Of the $114.6 billion, $35 billion is State-supported debt, amounting to 90 percent of the State’s $39 billion in debt.
  • They had revenues of $25.9 billion in 2002 -- $11 billion more than the State spends on Education Aid – and employed at least 97,000 people.
  • The 44 public authorities that report procurement activity to the Comptroller’s Office awarded 11,270 contracts valued at more than $10.5 billion in 2002 alone.
  • The Comptroller reviewed only 100 of those 11,270 contracts. The Comptroller’s Office must approve all state agency contracts, but does not approve authority contracts, except those of the Long Island Power Authority and the New York State Thruway Authority.

“The public authorities system in New York is now enormous, but it operates without appropriate supervision or oversight,” Hevesi said. “To call public authorities secretive is an understatement. New Yorkers support the work of public authorities through their tolls and taxes. They deserve to know how their money is being spent. Groups around the State are demanding accountability, an ideal that should be a fundamental tenet of government.”

Attorney General Spitzer said: "State authorities annually spend billions in public monies with inadequate oversight and accountability. The people of New York deserve better. I'm proud to join Comptroller Hevesi and this broad coalition to press for prompt and effective reform of state authorities."

The supporting groups signed onto a statement that said, “The legislation dramatically boosts public accountability, establishes consistent corporate governance standards, and allows for a thorough review of authorities… It is clear that action should be taken in this area. We believe that the plan put forward by the Comptroller and Attorney General must generate a real debate on this issue.”

Selected Statements in Support of Public Authorities Reform (in alphabetical order):
Roger Benson, President of Public Employees Federation (PEF)

"On behalf of the members of PEF, I am grateful to the Comptroller and the Attorney General for pursuing an authority reform agenda. Effective, accountable government protects our taxpayers and attracts the most qualified employees like those already represented by our public employee unions."

Jeremy Creelan, Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law
"The Attorney General and Comptroller should be commended for this far-reaching package of critical reforms. Our public authorities are fundamentally unaccountable to the voters whom they are intended to serve and must be brought within reach of the Comptroller's scrutiny and regulatory powers. We urge the Legislature and the Governor to embrace these reforms without delay.”

Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Citizens' Environmental Coalition
"We need greater transparency and accountability from the hundreds of Public Authorities in New York State, in order to ensure they are operating fairly and effectively. Only then will they best serve the needs of New York's citizens. It's high time we opened up those ivory towers and let the light shine through."

Dick Dadey, Executive Director, Citizens Union
“There is little doubt that in providing important public services, the state’s public authorities have grown into insular government bodies whose operations need greater oversight and accountability. Good government requires a high level of accountability and transparency in the operation of all state and local government entities, including public authorities.”

Diana Fortuna, President, Citizens Budget Commission
"Authorities are emblematic of pervasive problems in the management of New York State's fiscal affairs. The Citizens Budget Commission is hopeful that our elected officials will not miss the opportunity provided by the current debate to achieve public authority reform this year."

Joseph Glazer, President of the Mental Health Association in New York
"A number of these corporations were established to help solve major social problems, like homelessness. Lacking proper accountability, many have lost that mission, and rather become vehicles for refinancing the state's exorbitant debt load."

Blair Horner, NYPIRG Legislative Director
“This coalition shows the broad public support for meaningful authorities reform. New Yorkers deserve public authorities that are open, accountable and deliver meaningful services. We urge the Governor and the legislature to respond to the legislation advanced by the Comptroller and the Attorney General and enact real authorities reform before the end of the session.”

Denis Hughes, President, New York State AFL-CIO
"It is essential that public authority contracting practices are fair, so that New York employers are able to meet their obligations to their workers and successfully compete for the opportunity to provide goods and services. Representing 2.5 million working men and women in our State, the New York State AFL-CIO urges the Legislature to consider the Public Authority Reform Act of 2004 and take steps to ensure that Authorities serve to strengthen our economy."

Jeff Jones, Communications Director, Environmental Advocates of New York
"From the Power Authority to the Canal Corporation to the Olympic Regional Development Authority, New York's public authorities have a profound impact on the state's environmental quality. Unfortunately, there is too often a lack of transparency and accountability as these important decisions are being made. We are grateful that public authority reform is on the agenda. The environmental community will work with all who are involved in this effort for the protection of the state's environment and public health."

Rachel Leon, Executive Director, Common Cause NY
"Public authorities have shifted from entities designed to benefit the public to a black hole of debt and obscurity. Common Cause/NY commends Comptroller Hevesi and Attorney General Spitzer for their efforts to reform public authorities and bring much needed sunshine and accountability to the current process, including demanding that those that seek state contracts report their lobby spending. New Yorkers deserve honest and direct information regarding how billions of their public dollars are spent. We look forward to working with all of our lawmakers across New York State to make these crucial changes a reality."

Alan Lubin Executive Vice-President, New York State United Teachers
"As we seek to reform all aspects of State Government it would be irresponsible to not bring the authorities under the same scrutiny that the rest of Government operates within. Transparency will be the vehicle to help bring honesty, trust and fairness into the running of State authorities. If some authorities must cease to exist as a result of this bill, the funds can be put to better use."

Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of the LIPA Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP)
"On Long Island, the Long Island Power Authority spends over $2.5 billion of ratepayers' money each year, yet there are no effective checks and balances in place to hold LIPA accountable. Public Authority reform would go a long way to make LIPA and other State Authorities accountable in how they spend our money.”

Dennis Rivera, President, 1199 SEIU New York's Health & Human Service Union
“Comptroller Hevesi has put forth a comprehensive and thoughtful legislative package aimed at shedding light on New York's many public authorities. In this era of corporate malfeasance, it is imperative that our leaders ensure that all of our state instrumentalities are accountable, efficient, and open to public view. We commend the comptroller for beginning a much needed dialogue on authority accountability.”

Roger Toussaint, President of the Transit Workers Union
Riders need good service, and the men and women who keep our trains and buses running need fair treatment. To achieve this we need transparency and more accountability at the MTA. This is why we support the call for Albany to begin serious discussions and deliberations on the ‘Public Authority
Reform Act of 2004.’”

Barbara Zaron, President, OMCE, the Organization of Management/Confidential Employees
“While we recognize the important role played by public authorities, we believe that all government agencies must meet the same standards of accountability, transparency and public scrutiny. It is time for reform of the public authorities to ensure compliance with such standards.”

Hevesi and Spitzer proposed the Public Authority Reform Act of 2004 in February providing for greater oversight and accountability of the New York’s public authorities. The report that accompanied the proposed legislation identified all of the public authorities in New York State for the first time since 1956. It took substantial research to identify the 644 public authorities. But since there are no clear and consistent rules for what authorities must report, there was no accurate data on how much they spend, how much debt they issue and how many employees they have.

Click here for data on top ten public authorities
Click here for contract data on public authorities

###

ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING PUBLIC AUTHORITY REFORM
(in formation)

  • 1199 SEIU NEW YORK’S HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICE UNION
  • ACORN/NY
  • AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION OF NYS
  • ASIAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND
  • BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE
  • CENTER FOR MEDICAL CONSUMERS
  • CITIZEN ACTION
  • CITIZENS’ ADVISORY PANEL
  • CITIZENS BUDGET COMMISSION
  • CITIZENS’ ENVIRONMENTAL COALITION
  • CITIZENS UNION
  • CLEARWATER
  • COMMON CAUSE/ NY
  • DEMOS
  • ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATES of NY
  • FIGHT FOR FAMILIES
  • FISCAL POLICY INSTITUTE
  • LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS NYS
  • LONG TERM CARE COMMUNITY COALITION
  • MENTAL HEALTH ASSOC. IN NYS
  • NYS AFL-CIO
  • NEW YORK COALITION AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT
  • NEW YORK PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP (NYPIRG)
  • NYS SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION
  • NEW YORK STATE UNITED TEACHERS
  • ORGANIZATION OF NYS MANAGEMENT/CONFIDENTIAL EMPLOYEES, INC. (OMCE)
  • PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY/ NY
  • PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FEDERATION
  • PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS
  • REAL MAJORITY PROJECT
  • SENSES
  • STUDENT ASSEMBLY OF SUNY
  • STUDENTS4REFORM
  • TRANSPORTATION WORKERS UNION (TWU)
  • UNIVERSITY STUDENT SENATE OF CUNY

 

Albany Phone: (518) 474-4015  Fax:(518) 473-8940
NYC Phone: (212) 681-4825  Fax:(212) 681-4468
Internet: http://www.osc.state.ny.us
E-Mail:press@osc.state.ny.us