Cuomo “Eviscerated” Transit Lockbox, Says Bill’s Sponsor

Governor Andrew Cuomo "eviscerated" the transit lockbox bill last night, according to the office of bill sponsor James Brennan. The governor doesn't want New Yorkers to know when the state steals from the MTA. Michael Nagle/Getty Images ##http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/?attachment_id=8##via Times Union##

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the leadership of the state legislature added insult to injury last night, neutering the transit lockbox bill even after they put hundreds of millions in dedicated transit revenue at risk. While lockbox language did make it into the omnibus legislation passed last night, the governor’s office stripped out the meaningful provisions and added a giant loophole.

“It’s eviscerating our bill,” said Lorrie Smith, legislative director for Assembly Member James Brennan, the lockbox’s sponsor along with State Senator Marty Golden. “It completely removes the impact statement requirement and it allows the governor to declare an emergency and take whatever money he wants subject to legislative removal, which is what we have now.”

Since no law short of a constitutional amendment could completely stop future legislatures from raiding the MTA’s dedicated funds, the most important provision in the lockbox bill required the creation of a “diversion impact statement” whenever a raid was commenced. The statement would have clearly detailed how much was stolen from transit riders and estimated the impact on transit riders’ fares and service. That sunshine provision — which ought to have been a favorite of a governor who campaigned on transparency — was stripped out last night.

Smith said that Brennan, the bill’s sponsor, was surprised to find the bill destroyed. He only saw the language yesterday afternoon, she said, hours before the bill was passed.

What motivated the last-minute changes? “This is what the governor negotiated,” Smith said. “We really don’t know.”

Smith promised that Brennan would reintroduce his bill in its full form next year.

Coming on top of the massive cut to the MTA payroll tax — a move which could cost the MTA up to $320 million dollars a year over time — the effective veto of the lockbox bill caps off a political deal that has threatened transit service at every turn.

Transit advocates, good government groups, labor unions and construction associations all blasted the dismantling of the lockbox bill. “Our groups are disappointed that Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver used this special session to effectively nullify the provisions of the transit ‘lockbox’ bill that was overwhelmingly passed during the regular session,” said a statement released jointly by the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Citizens Committee for NYC, Common Cause/NY, the General Contractors Association, the League of Women Voters of NY State, NRDC, the NYS Council of Machinists, NYLCV, Reinvent Albany, the Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, TSTC and TWU Local 100. “We do not support the substitute legislation passed in this special session. It does not constrain future raids on transit funds and deletes the requirement that the impacts of the diversion of transit dedicated funds be reported.”

It’s worth remembering that every member of the State Assembly and every member of the State Senate voted for the original, stronger lockbox legislation. Even without a strong lockbox, the members of the legislature shouldn’t be allowed to renege on their stated support for keeping dedicated transit funding dedicated to transit.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So will Brennan vote no for once, on this bill and on the budget?  He’s been selling out the future along with the rest of them for near 30 years.  Maybe if everything wasn’t unanmious up there, and a few people didn’t have their silence bought by a few member items, things would have been different.

    Last time I saw this guy, he was in my neighborhood criticizing the “unaccountable MTA” for closing the second of two token booths at PPW, perhaps in exchange for support from the TWU, without having anything intelligent about what the heck the MTA is supposed to do given the situation it has been put in.

    At this point late isn’t much better than never, but it is somewhat better.  Vote no.  The future has been sold and those who will live it have been sold out.  Take as stand against this for once, now that you’ve got a vested pension.

    And by the way, any “impact report” anyone issues is Albany would be worthless.  Check out the “fiscal notes” on how much all of those retroactive pension deals would cost.  Most say “zero.”  I don’t see any actuaries in jail.  And how about the MTA’s statement of debt affordability? Lots of good it has done. 

  • Mark Walker

    Even during the campaign he was obvious he had nothing plausible to say about transit. Thank God I didn’t vote for him.

  • Glenn

    And before you can blink, new dedicated transit funding that only passed originally to keep fares from increasing even faster than they are becomes another way to plug other budget gaps…amazing how raising revenue for transit is popular enough to pass over other funding, but not popular enough to keep for transit. Says a lot about what the public is willing to pay for and what our government is willing to hijack for other purposes.

  • Eric McClure

    With Democrats like Cuomo, who needs Republicans?

  • Anonymous

    Cuomo is really bad news.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s a bigger scam than the MTA, Glenn.

    A huge increase in the regressive federal payroll tax in 1983 to “save Social Security.”

    The New York State lottery “for education.”

    New York’s “environmental bond issue.”  The bond issues — three, count ’em three — “for the Second Avenue Subway.”

    Donations raised “for parks.”

    And yet people oppose taxes.  Why?  How well do you think a dedicated tax for past debts and pensions would fare?  That’s why I proposed that every tax and charge for service should have a lower  base level and a “sins of the past surcharge,” so people could get a sense of how much money current public services and benefits are actually getting.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s a bigger scam than the MTA, Glenn.

    A huge increase in the regressive federal payroll tax in 1983 to “save Social Security.”

    The New York State lottery “for education.”

    New York’s “environmental bond issue.”  The bond issues — three, count ’em three — “for the Second Avenue Subway.”

    Donations raised “for parks.”

    And yet people oppose taxes.  Why?  How well do you think a dedicated tax for past debts and pensions would fare?  That’s why I proposed that every tax and charge for service should have a lower  base level and a “sins of the past surcharge,” so people could get a sense of how much money current public services and benefits are actually getting.

  • dumbandproud

    Wow!!! How many months did this ‘lockbox’ last? Less than six months? Is this how Cuomo plans to govern??? Wow!!!  Is this guy any different from Pataki? Wow.
    New Yorkers are screwed!!!