Fare Hike 2010: Your Chance to Prop Up Albany

Straphangers, are you ready to subsidize the runaway state budget?

MTA_money.pngBy popular demand, here’s an updated graphic depiction of how the state of New York stole dedicated transit tax revenue from the MTA in last year’s deficit reduction package. The $190 million pot of money is known as the state’s 18-B obligation to the MTA. The total MTA operating budget is nearly $12 billion (with a "b").

The Post reports that higher transit fares could be in the cards for the third year in a row, as the MTA re-evaluates its options to cover a $750 million deficit.

State lawmakers passed last year’s MTA funding package promising that it was sufficient to stave off service cuts and avert fare hikes until 2011. But that package, which conspicuously lacked bridge tolls, turned out to be insufficient. And to top it off, Albany swiped more than $100 million in dedicated transit tax revenues from the MTA last fall to pay for the state’s obligations.

Now, after facing the wrath of transit riders about potential cuts to subway and bus service, the MTA Board is weighing whether to raise fares ahead of schedule instead.

So let’s just point out that the amount of money that Albany swiped from dedicated transit taxes last fall ($118 million) is greater than the cost of all the bus and subway service on the chopping block ($77.6 million). A fare hike would basically amount to Albany picking money from straphangers’ pockets.

Hat tip @ShellySilver for the Post story.

  • That graphic is the ultimate smoking gun. Wouldn’t it be great to see it on all the local news telecasts and all over the dailies? Or on posters in every subway station in the city?

  • J:Lai

    The MTA board doesn’t care about public opinion, so they don’t bother to refute the rhetoric coming out of Albany.

    The legislature can keep diverting attention by pointing at inefficiency and waste in the MTA budget – why give them more money when they will only use it to pay inflated salaries, etc?

    Inefficiency in the budget, while important, is a second order problem. The lack of sufficient funding sources is the first order problem.

    The legislature can continue to claim that the MTA can maintain service with less money by reducing waste, because there is no one at the MTA who cares to demonstrate otherwise.

  • I hate to say it, but the only reason NY woke up and recognized their transit system was in the toilet in the 1980’s is because it was literally crime-ridden and crumbling. What a shame it would be if MTA has to let it get to that state again in order for NY to wake up again. Aren’t massive fare increases and service cuts enough?

  • JK

    Start watching the media coverage of the MTA budget crises. Does the coverage make it clear that Albany actually does not fund transit from general tax revenue, the way it does say K-12 education and Medicaid? Probably not. The only way for Albany to “cut” transit funding is for it to steal it. You can’t “cut” funding you are not providing. The political game being played in Albany is to make it seem that transit is vying with K-12 and Medicaid for a share of the same funding pie. This creates the political rationale or “frame” for stealing transit funding from dedicated transit taxes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If the dedicated MTA taxes are not dedicated, that means that people downstate pay higher taxes on the same incomes, spending or business earnings on people Upstate without anything extra.

    That makes downstate workers and businesses the opposite of senior citizens.

  • So does this mean that, not including dedicated taxes, the State’s contribution to the MTA was down to $7 million before the budget? Can you tell us what it was last year?

  • Also, following Larry’s line of argument, here is a post about successful pension reform, courtesy of Matt Yglesias.

  • Cap’n — This post and the previous post use figures from the 2009-10 budget and the deficit reduction package that altered that budget last fall. And yes, the state’s contribution to the MTA, even before this theft, was truly paltry.

    These figures are from the state division of the budget:

    Prior to enacting the deficit reduction package, Albany had committed all of $32 million from the general fund to the MTA’s $11.8 billion operating budget. Less than 0.3 percent. (The $32 million was composed of $7 million in “18-B” operating support — the thin blue line in the graphic up top — and $25 million for student fares.)

    After Albany took $143 million from the MTA in the DRP, the state became a net drain on the agency, withdrawing $111 million more than it had put in.

    In the draft 2010-11 budget, Albany has supposedly committed $13 million in “18-B” operating support and $25 million for student fares. Again, about 0.3 percent of the total MTA operating budget. You could call it “peanuts,” but that’s not a great metaphor since peanuts are actually nourishing.

    This report from former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s office shows how the state contribution to MTA operations has shrunk from “small” to virtually nothing over the last 10 years: [PDF].

  • If Albany contributes virtually nothing to the MTA, and is actually a net drain, why should the MTA continue to be a state agency? Maybe the MTA should be independent and self-supporting.

  • Okay, I’m trying to find these numbers in the budget documents, and I’m having a difficult time. I’ve found that the “amount taken from MMTOA fund” column in Table 2 of the Comptroller’s report corresponds roughly to the “18-b adjustment” in the MTA budget documents, but only for certain years. I can’t find anything that corresponds to the “18-b Total” or “Amount from the General Fund” columns. This stuff is very well hidden.

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