New York lawmakers last week passed legislation that would create a new office to oversee public authorities. Pending Gov. David Paterson’s signature, the new Authorities Budget Office would be headed up by a gubernatorial appointee, subject to Senate confirmation.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, called it “the most thorough reform of the authority system in American history.”
The new office will be located within the Department of State, but like the State Ethics Commission, it will not be run by the governor’s office, he said.
“It’s independent and that’s the most important thing,” Brodsky said. “Authorities in New York are not part of the executive branch and the Authorities Budget Office is not part of the executive branch.”
The bill would replace an existing oversight office and give the new one oversight capabilities, including subpoena power, and would limit authorities’ ability to create subsidiaries without state legislation. It also creates new reporting requirements for authorities, requires that authority property be sold at fair market value, that contracts over $1 million be approved by the state comptroller’s office, and that authorities keep records of all contact with lobbyists.
Brodsky, who chairs the Assembly committee on public authorities, has long criticized authorities as secretive and as having created “an explosion of debt.”
“These have been rogue agencies — many times they do the right thing, many times they don’t, but they were absolutely inconsistent with any understanding of a democracy,” Brodsky said.
The Senate passed the bill on Thursday, after the Assembly had passed it in June. A spokesman for Paterson said the governor’s office would review the bill when they receive it.