Transit advocates and City Council transportation committee chair Jimmy Vacca are sounding the alarm about potential transit funding raids before the year is out. A $315 million hole has opened up in the state budget, and unless elected officials change the way they balance the state’s books, straphangers could end up paying for Albany’s fiscal mess — again.
Last December, Albany swiped $143 million in MTA funding — most of which came from dedicated transit taxes — to cover the state’s budget gap. That funding would have been enough to prevent all the subway and bus cuts that the MTA enacted this year. More recently, Albany took $16.7 million in dedicated transit tax revenue to make up for a shortfall in federal Medicaid assistance.
Now the state is looking at a midyear budget deficit of $315 million. Vacca, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign sent a letter today to Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate leader John Sampson warning against another transit raid. It concludes:
Straphangers face the real possibility of additional service cuts or fare hikes if the MTA cannot identify steady funding sources. At a time when the State should be focused on shoring up the future of mass transit funding — and restoring the $143 million that was diverted last year — conducting another ‘sweep’ would send a terrible message.
Denying the MTA any additional funds from its dedicated tax stream at this time would be a short-term fix with severe long-term consequences. We urge you to take a different route.
The state’s repeated looting of dedicated MTA revenues is a problem that Albany may have to address before incoming governor Andrew Cuomo assumes office. And it will still rear its head after Cuomo becomes governor.
Streetsblog will be taking a closer look at what Cuomo, Sheldon Silver’s Assembly, and the State Senate (likely under the leadership of Long Island Republican Dean Skelos) can do to protect straphangers and preserve the integrity of the MTA’s funding streams. Stay tuned.