Efforts to protect dedicated transit funds from Albany budget raids moved forward on Tuesday as a coalition of transportation advocates went to the state capitol to lobby for transit riders. The transit lockbox bill immediately picked up five sponsors, and more seem poised to sign on.
Advocates from the Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and WE ACT for Environmental Justice met with a number of legislators. The broader coalition of lockbox supporters, which includes a number of labor unions and business representatives, has lobbied for the legislation separately. So far, five new legislators — Senators Daniel Squadron, Liz Krueger, Andrew Lanza and Assembly Members Joe Lentol and Nelson Castro — have signed on as sponsors since the lobby day, according to T.A. State Policy Director Lindsey Lusher Shute, and more should join over the next week.
T.A. has set up an e-mail action to connect New Yorkers with their state representatives. Let them know their support for this bill will help protect transit riders from future service cuts and fare hikes.
With the MTA facing a capital funding shortfall nearing $10 billion, some legislators are connecting the dots between protecting the integrity of existing transit taxes and securing support for new revenue streams. “When Senator Squadron was approached he was initially concerned about the effect the lockbox bill might have on efforts to raise more funding for public transit, especially in light of the capital program needs,” said Lusher Shute. “But then, almost in unison the Senator and our team exclaimed, ‘How can we raise more money without protecting what we have?!'”
The other good news is that the Senate and Assembly versions of the legislation have been amended to be identical, “same-as” bills. “The only way a bill can pass the full legislature is by being passed with the same language in both houses as a ‘same-as,'” explained Lusher Shute. “Having a ‘same-as’ on the lock box bill means that there’s real cooperation between the houses (and in this case, parties), and that both sponsors are committed to getting the legislation passed. There are a lot of bills that pass one house to make a statement, but a ‘same-as’ bill that is being pushed in both houses is intended to make real change.”