Every dollar of spending this year by the New York State Thruway Authority is up for review.
“We are looking at everything,” said authority Executive Director Thomas Madison, who was at Schenectady County Community College on Friday to deliver a regional version of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address.
The authority generated controversy in the waning months of last year when it was considering a 45-percent toll hike for three-axle commercial vehicles to offset rising expenses. The goal was accomplished instead by shifting the $60 million expense of state police Thruway patrols to the state’s general fund.
And despite the authority cutting millions in salary through attrition, more cuts are needed, which is why Madison said it is still focused on saving money. At this time, he added, no toll hikes are planned to cover costs.
This was good news to Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, who attended Friday’s address. He was opposed to the toll hike last year and said the authority needs to find cost-saving measures instead of raising tolls.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, has called for shifting the power of setting tolls to the state Legislature. In response to this idea, Madison said he would like to review the proposal and is open to talking about any ideas.
Going forward, Madison said, the state’s Thruway and canal systems could play a major role in Cuomo’s vision for the state.
Madison anticipated the Thruway system would get involved in the Taste NY program, which will highlight locally grown and produced products. Because the hundreds of miles of road stretch across the entire state, he said it would make sense to utilize the 27 service plazas along the Thruway. Additionally, he said the governor’s Marketing NY program, designed to highlight the assets of upstate, would be a boon to the canal system. There is already some marketing of this asset, but Madison predicted more tourism opportunities could be found with better marketing.
Madison also laid out future opportunities for the state’s community colleges, including SCCC. Cuomo has talked about connecting community colleges, businesses and venture capitalists to find new enterprises that could be developed. In order to find the right fit, Madison said they would need to “do some speed-dating rounds.”
When asked to prioritize Cuomo’s ambitious agenda, Madison suggested gun control, which would include a ban on assault weapons, would be a top priority. He added that he is a sportsman himself and, like the governor, owns a gun.