DeFrancisco: Empire State Development Must Reimburse State DOT and Thruway Authority

February 5, 2018

Calls for Legislative Hearings into Cuomo’s Disregard of Federal Laws, Misuse of Capital Funds

Today, Senator John A. DeFrancisco (R,C,I – Syracuse) called on Empire State Development (ESD) to immediately reimburse the State Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority and the Port Authority of NY/NJ for the misuse of capital funds to install 514 illegal “I Love NY” tourism signs along highways across New York State – and if they can’t, Governor Cuomo’s campaign should. Additionally Senator DeFrancisco called for legislative hearing’s into the misuse of funds and Cuomo’s administrations blatant disregard for federal and state law.

According to extensive reporting by Jon Campbell of Gannett, “the state Department of Transportation used emergency highway contracts and paid out thousands of dollars in overtime costs to install hundreds of “I Love NY” highway signs ahead of July 4 weekend last year.” The report continues, “…Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration dotted state roadways last year with more than 500 signs touting New York’s tourism programs, despite a federal order prohibiting the state from doing so. In at least four cases, records showed, the state DOT utilized emergency contracts generally reserved for urgent highway repairs to quickly erect the signs, a practice the head of a construction industry trade group said was “unusual.”

“Under Andrew Cuomo’s direction, the State Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority and Port Authority of NY/NJ misused over $8 million in capital funds, redirecting critical money and personnel to install 514 illegal “I Love NY” tourism signs along highways across New York State. These monies and personnel should have been used to repair critical infrastructure and fill potholes along New York’s crumbing highway system,” charged Senator John DeFrancisco. “These signs were nothing more than a vanity project for Andrew, who went so far as to divert state employees off critical repair work to immediately install these signs, in advance of trips he was making to specific regions of the state. He was directly involved in the placement of the signs, including sending staff to review signs he thought didn’t have enough space between them. Talk about micromanaging.”

After numerous threats over the last five years, on Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration withheld $14 million in funding, forcing the state to finally agree to take the signs down.

“Governor Cuomo inherently believe’s that the rule of law does not apply to him or his administration. As I’ve said many times, Andrew Cuomo does what he wants, when he wants, no matter whether its right or wrong, legal or illegal. And he will never admit a mistake,” said Senator DeFrancisco. “Andrew was told many times by numerous agencies and state employees, including the counsel to the state Department of Transportation, that installing these signs was illegal. Rather than adhere to the law, Andrew thought he was above it, going so far as to taunt the federal government by keeping the signs up, thinking they would never come take them down. Andrew, was right, they didn’t come take them down. Instead, they withheld federal highway funds and forced him to take the signs down. Like with any bully, when you stand up to them, they back down.”

“As a result of Governor Cuomo’s misuse of capital funds and blatant disregard for federal and state law, Empire State Development must immediately reimburse State DOT, the Thruway Authority and the Port Authority of NY/NJ for any capital funds used to install these signs. And if they can’t do it, then the Governor’s campaign should reimburse the state because he knew it was illegal and wasted taxpayer money on another vanity project. Going forward, Andrew Cuomo needs to learn the rule of law applies to everyone, including him.” Senator DeFrancisco continued, “Additionally, I’m calling for a full legislative hearing into this matter. We need to get to the bottom of it and the administration needs to be held accountable for it’s reckless disregard for the rule of law.”