Assemblyman, Thruway leaders clash at hearing

Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, chairman of the Transportation Committee, clashed with leaders
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Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, chairman of the Transportation Committee, clashed with leaders of the Thruway Authority on Tuesday at a public hearing on proposed toll increases.

Gantt criticized the nonappearance of authority Chairman John Buono and said he may compel his appearance at a future date by issuing a subpoena.

Michael Fleischer, executive director of the authority, said Buono was out of state, and the Assembly had only informed the authority about the hearing last Thursday evening.

Gantt noted that he and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, have called for the resignation of all authority board members so Gov. Eliot Spitzer can appoint new ones.

“I do not believe I should resign,” responded board member Kevin Plunkett.

Another board member, Frederick Howard, read a statement from Buono responding to audits of the authority completed recently by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The statement said key issues raised by the audits, including levels of federal aid and the authority’s responsibility for the state Canal Corp., are not within the board’s control.

Buono’s statement also said the audits confirm that a toll increase is needed, but said it may be modified in light of the comptroller’s recommendations.

DiNapoli also testified and said the authority needs to take various steps before resorting to toll increases, including collection of debts owed by E-Z Pass customers.

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