Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY — A state audit released Friday questioned the state Thruway Authority [Cuomo] for dropping $8,000 on a holiday dinner for employees and spending $3,630 on food for a two-day staff conference.
“Authority policy permits employee recognition and service awards,” the audit from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office said. “While such a policy fosters employee morale, the policy should provide guidance as to reasonable amounts for such expenses.”
The audit examined 113 payments for discretionary spending[frivilous] totaling $87,840 from 2010 through 2012.
Auditors questioned 10 payments totaling $14,557, saying it’s “unclear how the authority determined the reasonableness of the expenses.”
Those included eight payments totaling $9,457 for various employee recognition events, including almost $8,000 for the holiday dinner. The other two payments totaled $5,100 for food at staff conferences, including $3,630 for one two-day staff conference.
In a response to the audit, Thruway Authority executive director Thomas Madison said the authority has strict spending guidelines that have resulted in $900,000 in reductions in travel and overtime expenses since 2012. He said the authority plans to end the year with a decrease in operating expenses of 12 percent, a $60 million drop. It’s also reduced capital construction costs by $300 million, he wrote in a Sept. 16 response to DiNapoli’s office.
But Madison said that the agency should review its policies on discretionary spending.“We agree with your audit recommendations that the authority examine its written policies and procedures to determine if adequate guidance is provided regarding discretionary spending,” Madison wrote.
The Thruway has been criticized for its fiscal policies in recent years after it increased tolls several times to make up for growing costs and stagnant revenue.
There’s a possibility that the Thruway may seek a toll increase in 2015, and it has also yet to detail all the funding to pay for a new, $3.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties.
A December analysis by a consultant to the Thruway Authority estimated the 570-mile-long Thruway’s revenue will be $67.2 million short of its needs[total BS, they spend the thruway money on other things and now are scrambling!On the TAXPAYERS BACK!] in 2015 under the current toll structure, with deficits growing in future years.
Cuomo to go on bus tour, tailed by foes
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and running mate Kathy Hochul will visit three upstate cities Saturday on the “Women’s Equality Express,” a bus tour to highlight their support of a 10-point women’s rights agenda. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s campaign said it won’t be far behind. It will have the “Shelly Silver Express” to knock Cuomo for not calling for the resignation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who has been criticized for the handling of sexual harassment cases in the chamber.
Cuomo’s bus tour starts Saturday morning in Albany, heads to Syracuse and then concludes at 4 p.m. in Rochester at the United Workers Hall, 750 East Ave. “This rally will be a great opportunity for our community to come out and demonstrate our strong support of Governor Cuomo and the Women’s Equality Agenda,” Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said in an email to supporters Thursday afternoon.
Cuomo, a Democrat, has done little campaigning in advance of Election Day, Nov. 4, but he’s expected to ramp up his efforts in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to be doing these bus tours quite often between now and the end of the election,” Cuomo said Friday on The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio show.
He has also offered few details about his platform for a second term, focusing largely on his record since he took office in 2011.
Cuomo said he would be rolling out more policy positions before Election Day, saying he’s started to do some. He’s talked about various ways the state could use a $4 billion windfall from bank settlements, increased the state’s goal for minority owned business and on Thursday announced new policies to address sexual abuse on SUNY campuses.
In 2010, Cuomo put out 10 policy books about his plans if elected. “I think if you look at these events as we’ve been going on, we are articulating the policy goals of the next administration — one at a time,” Cuomo told reporters Thursday. “Have we put out the book like we did in the first campaign? No. Because I learned a little bit: Nobody ever read the book.”
Cuomo held a commanding 29 percentage point lead over Astorino[in NYC], the Westchester County executive, a Siena College poll last week showed.
On Friday, Astorino showed little money in his campaign account to air ads against Cuomo in the final weeks of the race.
He had nearly $1.3 million in the bank after spending $2.6 million on campaign expenses since July, mainly on his first ad last month. Cuomo had $35 million in his coffers in July and had nearly $26 million left last month.
Cuomo introduced the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda in January 2013, but it has stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have balked at a provision that would strengthen abortion rights in New York. Democrats and Cuomo are seeking to capitalize on the issue during the campaign in a state with twice as many Democrats than Republicans, and Cuomo has a line on the ballot for a “Women’s Equality Party.”[is Soros buying this line for you Cuomo?]
Astorino, who is prolife, has knocked the abortion piece of the agenda, saying it would lead to an expansion of abortion in New York. He charged Friday that it’s hypocritical of Cuomo to promote women’s rights when he didn’t call for Silver’s ouster amid a number of sexual harassment complaints against Assembly Democrats.
Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins said he’ll hold his own event when Cuomo comes to Syracuse and “offer to give Cuomo a pedal-powered tour of his Syracuse neighborhood to see firsthand how Cuomo’s policies are exasperating inequality.”
The Republicans’ van will have a sign that reads: “Ask Andrew Cuomo why he let Sheldon Silver off the hook in Albany sex assault scandals.”
In 2012, Silver quietly settled two sexual harassment complaints against disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, for about $103,000. In January, Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga, Erie County, resigned amid sexual harassment charges.[taxpayer money used to pay for this!]
Republicans, including Astorino, called for Silver’s ouster, but Cuomo never turned on Silver, saying in April 2013, “It is wholly up to the legislative bodies to select a leader.” Silver has since implemented new policies.
“Sheldon Silver survived as speaker because Andrew Cuomo protected him,” Astorino said in a statement. “Mr. Cuomo showed zero regard for the victims of these sex crimes.” Cuomo’s bus tour comes on the same day as Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday. Cuomo said there would be other opportunities to participate in his events before Election Day. “I am highly respectful and wish everyone who’s celebrating a joyous holiday, and people who can’t come because of the holiday, I totally understand that,” Cuomo said in the radio interview.