Cuomo Breaks Another Promise to Transit Riders

No matter how bad the service gets, transit riders will always have these USB ports.
No matter how bad the service gets, transit riders will always have these USB ports.

Andrew Cuomo is betting NYC transit riders have short memories.

Five years ago, Cuomo promised to allocate $320 million annually to the MTA to make up for cutting one of the agency’s dedicated revenue streams. Instead of the MTA receiving that money directly via the Payroll Mobility Tax, which Cuomo cut to appease Republicans in the State Senate, transit riders were supposed to count on an infusion every year from the general fund.

At the time, advocates warned that Cuomo wouldn’t keep his promise for long. They were right.

Cuomo’s draft budget this year calls for reducing his general fund contribution to $244 million, reports the Daily News, a $65 million cut compared to 2016.

The spin from the Cuomo administration is that there is no transit funding cut, because the MTA’s revenues from dedicated taxes (including the remaining payroll tax) are rising more than $65 million. It’s a weak excuse that only highlights how much transit riders lost out when the governor cut the payroll tax in the first place.

By replacing a chunk of payroll tax with a fixed sum five years ago, Cuomo turned a variable revenue source into a static amount. If he had left the payroll tax the way it was, by now it would be sending more than $320 million to the MTA each year.

Instead, today Cuomo is compounding the damage to transit riders. As more funding comes in from the remaining sources of payroll tax revenue, he’s using it to paper over the $65 million he’s yanking away.

Breaking transit funding promises is nothing new for Cuomo. Last year he pledged to fill a $7.3 billion hole in the MTA capital program with “state sources” but never delivered. Instead he set the stage for the MTA to fill the gap with borrowing. The Cuomo administration insists it “secured” funding for the capital plan when in fact the governor did little besides enable more bonding, adding to the agency’s debt burden and saddling transit riders with higher fares.

Transit advocates will be fighting Cuomo’s $65 million transit cut in the state legislature this session. Yesterday, the Riders Alliance was in Albany with Assembly members calling for the funding to be restored in the final budget.

Even within the context of the MTA’s massive $16 billion operating budget, $65 million is nothing to sneeze at. Every transit rider waiting for the agency to speed up bus service, upgrade ancient signals so trains can run more frequently and reliably, or fix broken station elevators probably has some good ideas about how that money could be spent.

  • JudenChino

    What an asshole.

  • Jason

    This is precisely why I wanted to fly back to New York and personally punch him in the face when I was reading the news in November/December about him acting like the 2nd Ave Subway had been his idea the entire time.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The costs from the past keep arriving. And the search for victims is ongoing. Everyone is blasting Cuomo for not providing more funding. This person was on the committee that oversaw the MTA, but since the teacher’s union is powerful here chief complaint is that state school funding is only going up $1 billion.

    http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/02/14/state-assemblywoman-cathy-nolan-eliminating-the-foundation-aid-formula-is-completely-unacceptable/

    And advocates for the poor, social service non-profits and housing are angry at DeBlasio for keeping them on starvation diets while “spending” soared.

    Remember, Cuomo has already incorporated extending the “temporary” additional $millionaire’s tax” in his budget. And the economy is near the peak, not near the bottom. Same with the overvalued stock market. What is going on?

    “The shortage will be divided among the peasants.” — Russian Proverb

  • Some Asshole

    Isn’t it obvious by now that Cuomo cares not for the lifeblood of the metropolitan region?

  • Bernard Finucane

    People who use public transportation are subhuman in the eyes of most Americans. Getting a driver’s license and then a car are rites of passage. If you have passed through this stage, you are considered an adult and a first class citizen. There is no need for you to use public transportation.

    Americans in general are strongly oriented towards feelings of social dominance — the idea that certain groups are inherently superior, and as such have the the right to better treatment.

    Drivers can kill pedestrians with impunity in America because they are seen as a dominant social class. In the same way, Why would a driver walk anywhere? Pedestrians belong to an inherently inferior group.

    Cuomo can break any promise made to transit advocates with impunity. Oath taking implies equality between the parties involved, but Cuomo belongs to the driving class, and transit advocates are clearly his inferiors.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Transit riders, like peasants, are an inherently inferior class. See my other remarks in this thread about SDO.

  • Robert

    But this is backwards to the way New York City operates. Over half of local journeys made by NYC’s well to do are on the subway, and if anyone in New York State doesn’t want to be told they are inferior, it would be them. His arrogance will be his downfall if it continues.

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