Andrew Cuomo wants New Yorkers to think he’s taken care of the multi-billion dollar funding shortfall for the MTA capital program, even though his new budget allocates no new funds for the MTA. Well, 36 members of the Assembly aren’t buying it.
In a letter to Cuomo, Brooklyn Assembly Member Jim Brennan called on the governor to commit $1.825 billion annually over the next four years to the MTA. This would cover the $7.3 billion gap that remains in the capital program, the five-year package of critical maintenance projects and upgrades for the region’s transit system. Another 35 members of the Assembly have signed on to the letter.
In October, Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio reached an agreement in which the city would contribute $2.5 billion and the state $8.3 billion to the capital plan. The state had already allocated $1 billion of its share in previous budgets, but Cuomo’s proposed FY 2017 budget does not allocate any additional funding. Instead, it says the state will follow-through on its commitment to the capital plan only when the MTA has exhausted all other sources of funding, including loans.
Transit advocates and budget watchdogs pointed out that Cuomo was not making a real commitment, and that his stalling tactics could lead to excessive borrowing or a slowdown of necessary work on the capital program.
“Funding the Capital Plan immediately would also eliminate the budget provision requiring the MTA to exhaust all other available money before State funding becomes available, decreasing the uncertainties that have led to capital projects falling behind schedule and going over budget,” Brennan’s letter says.
In response, Cuomo spokesperson Beth DeFalco repeated the party line to the Daily News. “There is no additional new appropriation in the budget because the MTA does not need it now,” she said. “However, there is very clear and direct legislation in the governor’s budget that makes the commitment to fund the Capital Program a matter of law — and provides in iron-clad language that the state funds will be available whenever the MTA needs it.”
But there’s nothing very “iron-clad” about the current arrangement, since it allows Cuomo to avoid dedicating funds to the current MTA capital plan until he is no longer in office.
“The Governor is trying to deploy a bait-and-switch tactic of promising riders billions, then quietly putting in zero in the actual budget,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. “This letter is the Assembly saying: let’s keep the promise that was made to transit riders.”