Assembly Democratic Leader Anthony Impreveduto proposes aid for private inspection vendors
Seeking to protect private garages from financial fallout of the emission system meltdown, Assembly Democratic Leader Anthony Impreveduto (D-32nd Dist.) and Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Neil Cohen (D-20th Dist.) have introduced legislation that would reimburse private garages for the costs of purchasing and installing auto inspections equipment mandated under the state's enhanced emission testing program. "Family-owned businesses should not be financially crippled while an out-of-state company rakes in millions by virtue of its political connections," Impreveduto said. "The state enticed these service station owners into the inspections quagmire. Now the state should get help getting these people out of this nightmare." Impreveduto has also criticized the state purchasing department for failing to look more closely at the close relationship between the company that built the state's new auto inspection system and a consultant hired to oversee the program's compliance. Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group won a $488 million contract to operate the inspection program over six years, and Parsons Brinckerhoff-FG Inc. was hired to make sure the program worked correctly. Although not owned by the same people despite the name, both companies have done business with each other in the past. "If the state can find the financial wherewithal to cover the startup costs of Parson Infrastructure and Technology Group, then the state should provide the same sort of assistance for small business that invested their own income into this high risk inspection venture," said Cohen, who hails from Union. "This is about protecting small business owners and their families. The bill would reimburse the approximately 1,450 garages taking part in the state's enhanced auto inspection program. These businesses invested an average of $50,9000 for the purchase and installation of testing equipment and software to carry out the new inspections. The lawmakers estimate the cost of their bill would be about $75 million. "If the Whitman administration can commit $40 million for Parsons, then the same sort of financial security blanket should be extended to these private garages," Impreveduto said. Cohen and Impreveduto said they conceived their bill in the wake of the latest Whitman administration attempt to control the nettlesome Parsons saga. At the end of January, the Governor allowed Parsons to conduct the old curbside tailpipe tests at 15 inspection stations that have been inundated with long waiting lines since the enhanced emissions program began on Dec. 13. While this may reduce waiting lines at some stations, both Impreveduto and Cohen said this will effectively encourage motorists to avoid the private garages. Private garages are still required to administer the tougher emissions tests. "Why would anyone pay money for the aggravation of having tougher dynamometer type tests at a private garage?" Impreveduto asked. "The rules of supply and demand in this case are not going to be too kind to private garage owners. The garages are being left at a competitive disadvantage."