Cuomo Nickel-and-Dimes Transit Riders While Heaping $564 Million on the Van Wyck

The final budget deal in Albany breaks a promise the governor made to transit riders in 2011.

Cuomo's budget goes to extraordinary lengths to skim from transit while covering the tracks.
Cuomo's budget goes to extraordinary lengths to skim from transit while covering the tracks.

The Albany budget deal reached over the weekend makes it official: Governor Cuomo has broken his promise to make up for cuts to the MTA payroll tax in 2011. While the state shrinks its commitment to the MTA, other Cuomo economic development priorities are moving ahead, including an expansion of the Van Wyck budgeted for $564 million.

The final deal allocates $244 million from the state’s general fund to the MTA operating budget, $65 million less than last year. That amount was supposed to be fixed at $320 million when Cuomo originally cut the payroll tax six years ago.

After advocates called out the governor’s cut, legislators added $65 million to the MTA’s capital program, and that provision is in the final budget. Cuomo spokesperson Jon Weinstein has been berating advocates for not counting this as a win, but Riders Alliance director John Raskin points to two reasons why this budget is a step backward for transit riders:

  • The $320 million was a recurring contribution that has now been reset at a lower level. The $65 million for the capital program is a one-off payment.
  • More importantly, there’s no reason to believe the $65 million is actually an increase in the state’s contribution to the capital program. That’s because the state makes other direct payments to the capital program but does not specify the size of these payments at the time the budget is passed, Raskin says. The size of these other payments could be adjusted to offset the “addition” of $65 million — Cuomo’s MTA budget dance is so opaque there’s no way to tell.

What’s remarkable here, more than the amount in question, is that the Cuomo administration goes to such lengths to skim from the MTA and cover its tracks.

At a time when the transit system is straining under a huge pile of debt and deteriorating service is starting to repel riders, the governor should be going all out to expand core subway capacity and speed up bus service.

Instead Cuomo is nickel-and-diming transit riders while heaping hundreds of millions on highway expansion.

  • Vooch

    We will continue losing these budget battles until interstates are fully privatized.

  • Fool

    I do wounder if the per passenger mile traveled return on investment is higher for the Van Wyck than the 2 Ave Subway. Given how everyone is only concerned about the revenue side of capital projects and not the cost side, since no one wants to address the labor cost issue.

  • Larry Littlefield

    In a fair world $65 million would pay for tail tracks on the L past 8th Avenue.

  • douglasawillinger

    Where is this Streetsblog description of this VanWyck expansion project?

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