Assembly and Senate Would Strip Another $170M From Transit Riders

A Cuomo Administration memo shows that up to $170 million more in transit cuts could be possible if the legislature gets its way.

When Andrew Cuomo released his executive budget in February, it included a $100 million raid on dedicated transit funds. As Cuomo hammers out the budget in negotiations with the State Assembly and Senate, however, it seems that the MTA could lose up to another $170 million. Both houses of the legislature are seeking cuts and the issue appears to be very much alive.

The repercussions of a $270 million cut could be very serious for transit riders; it was a $143 million raid last year that triggered an unprecedented round of service cuts and fare hikes.

The newest threats to transit funding come from each house of the legislature, as revealed in an internal Cuomo administration budget negotiations cheat sheet uncovered by the New York Times. The memo lists the still-unresolved issues in budget negotiations, though you can never be sure whether a document like this shows what the Cuomo administration believes or what the Cuomo administration wants you to think it believes.

According to the memo, transit funding could be reduced in two possible ways. First, the Senate Republicans’ budget, which passed that house last week, contains that conference’s first steps toward repealing the payroll mobility tax. It exempts both public and private schools from paying the payroll tax, which would reduce revenues by $70 million.

On the Assembly side, $100 million in transit funds are in jeopardy. When Cuomo decided to steal $100 million from the MTA’s dedicated funds, he actually structured it as a $200 million raid offset by granting the MTA $100 million from elsewhere in the budget. The problem is that “elsewhere” meant the Assembly’s discretionary funds. Unsurprisingly, Assembly members aren’t too excited about having the governor take $100 million in earmarks away from them, and they have not proposed an alternative source for recouping that $100 million for the MTA.

According to the memo, the Cuomo administration is opposed to both proposals. The governor’s team says it “cannot close the transportation table while these issues remain unresolved,” according to the document, but the column labeled “compromise (if any)” remains blank.

  • And yeah, sure, it was the PPW bike path that made the B69 go away. Right.

  • j

    This makes me feel incredibly powerless. I vote for the Democrat, and he screws transit. The republican would have certainly screwed transit even more. Why do we keep balancing the budget on the backs of transit riders, with the many many positive externalities? It’s unconscionable and incredibly short-sighted.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So how much is spending on debt service, pensions and retiree health care being cut? After all, that’s what has been increased in the past two decades.

  • So, Downstate mass transit riders are supporting often unsustainable upstate lifestyles? And Upstate thinks THEY float NYC?

  • Chris

    When fares reach $5 (not inconceivable) the bike lanes will be looking pretty good.

  • Alice

    Transit is essential for the economy, it’s critical infrastructure. If you raise the price of utilities, you make the local economy less productive, and it’s the same for transit as for any other utility.
    Somebody should ask for the economic impact analysis of the proposed transit cuts.

  • J

    Honestly, research has shown that transit use is largely inelastic, meaning that raising fares, while politically unpopular, does not actually lead to big drops in ridership. Cuts to service and reliability, however, have been shown to lead directly to large drops in ridership. Conversely, improvements to service result in ridership gains. Therefore, budget cuts that reduce service, decrease maintenance, or hinder capital expansion projects are horrific. However, if the effect of cuts is simply raising fares a bit, I’m less opposed to them, even though I don’t particularly like them.

    What we really need is a stable and predictable transit funding source, so that the future of the transit system isn’t subject to the political winds of the annual budget process.

  • Alice: “Somebody should ask for the economic impact analysis of the proposed transit cuts.”

    This is an astute comment. Crippling transit in the NY region can only result in a downward spiral, with city and state going down the same drain.

  • Chris


    I don’t think the politicians really care, and the public is too fixed on stupid “bike backlash” to care (thanks useless media)

  • J:Lai

    Alice and J, you are both correct.

    Regular transit users typically do not have any lower cost transportation option, and neither do they have the discretion to simply not travel. Thus, demand for transit is relatively inelastic with respect to price.

    However, if transit users need to spend more money on transportation, they will have less to spend on everything else. Thus, one would expect rising transit fares to lead to decreased consumer spending on all other goods.

    In addition, marginal transit users are price sensitive. People who ride occasionally but have some alternate means of transportation, like a car, do become less likely to ride when the price goes up.

  • Suzanne

    Maybe I’m missing something but the only people *not* paying more seem to be car drivers. How many tolls have gone up? How many previously untolled bridges are now tolled?

    Also, building bike infrastructure is So. Damn. Cheap! For both the city and the rider. It’s a *sin* biking is being criminalized in NYC. The upside down thinking that’s being pumped from the media while the economy is in the toilet and basic necessities like transportation are being gutted makes me feel like I’m in living in surrealist dada-land.

    …OMG! I’M BEING ANTI-FREEDOM AND ANTI-AMERICAN! And I probably hate little children and puppies, too!

  • Do these clowns not realize that there is no single more important ingredient to the entire region’s economic health than the ability of large masses of people to get into, out of, and around New York City? The entire state’s and entire region’s economy depends heavily on that. But it’s all foreign to these slobs.

  • Oh crap, sorry. . .didn’t mean to put the U.S. Senators up there. Sorry everybody.


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