The transit lockbox bill, which would require Albany to disclose the impacts of any raid of dedicated transit funds, passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously in the final days of the legislative session, reports the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. It now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk. A nearly identical bill reached Cuomo in 2011, but the governor gutted the disclosure provision and signed a toothless bill. This time around, will Cuomo put pen to paper and protect transit riders?
“I don’t think the governor can water the bill down this time,” Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign told Streetsblog in an e-mail last week. “For Cuomo, the option is only yes or no.”
Albany has siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars in dedicated transit funding into the state’s general fund in since 2009. The raids have gotten smaller recently, but they haven’t stopped. Earlier this year TSTC flagged a $20 million MTA raid in Cuomo’s budget.
Two years ago, the legislature passed a lockbox bill for MTA funds, but Cuomo inserted an “emergency” provision — a loophole around the requirement to disclose each raid and issue a report on the impact to transit riders. An effort to close the loophole and include all New York transit agencies in the law failed last year in the legislature, but has now cleared both chambers.
Transit advocates and good government groups say that the bill will help prevent future raids. “It increases fiscal transparency, and makes it harder for Albany to break the promise to taxpayers that transit dedicated taxes will be spent solely on transit,” said John Kaehny, executive director of transparency watchdog Reinvent Albany.
Now the pressure is on Cuomo to enact the bill. “It behooves Governor Cuomo to sign this legislation into law,” advocates said in a joint statement.