Sunday, March 2, 2014

There He Goes Again: NYC Officials Protest Gov. Cuomo's Raid on MTA Transit Funds

Assembly Member Jim Brennan. Photo: Riders Alliance
What does Gov. Cuomo have against New York City? From public school kids, to Long Island College Hospital, to the mass transit system, the Governor seems to feel he can solve the state's budget problems by raiding the city's budget.

 State legislators, transit advocates and subway and bus riders rallied on Sunday to oppose what they called Governor Cuomo’s "proposed raid of $40 million from dedicated transit funds in the state budget."

According to a press release from the Riders Alliance, in his proposed 2014-15 budget, Governor Cuomo requested to remove $40 million from a fund that is supposed to be dedicated to mass transit, and to move it to the General Debt Service Fund.

Governor Cuomo wants to use the funds to pay debt service on the MTA’s Service Contract Bonds—bonds the State had committed to pay for, not the MTA, for the express purpose of alleviating the MTA’s debt burden and the negative impacts it has on service and on riders.

The advocates released a letter from more than 30 members of the State Assembly, led by Assembly Member Jim Brennan, opposing the Governor’s proposed raid and pushing for the funds be restored to the transit budget.

In addition to siphoning off $40 million from dedicated transit funds this year, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposes to take an additional $20 million every year for years into the future. Advocates say that the Governor’s proposal would cumulatively steal nearly $350 million from the cash-strapped transit agency. State Comptroller DiNapoli, in his analysis of the Governor’s proposed 2014-15 budget, pointed out that these are “resources that could have otherwise gone to the MTA.”

The MTA has still not restored the level of service riders had before bus routes and subway lines were eliminated in 2010 cost-saving measures, and the Authority has predicted that there will be additional fare hikes in 2015 and 2017.

State Assembly Member Karim Camara said, “I think everybody should consider how $40 million could be used to help riders in New York City. In Central Brooklyn, certainly some of this money could be used to alleviate overcrowding and delays on Utica Avenue, which is served by the B46, the second busiest bus line in New York City."

State Senator Martin Golden said, “I join with my colleagues and with the Riders Alliance in calling for an end to transit fund raiding. As a sponsor of the Lock Box Bill which would have prevented raids like this from happening, I know how important it is to ensure that funds that are dedicated for transit operations remain. It's just simply wrong.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron said, “We've seen time and again that the best way to keep transit fares down and service quality up is dedicated funding. That's why we need to protect every dollar that is meant for transit -- and keep finding new ones.

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