Will Cuomo Protect Transit Riders and Sign the Transit Lockbox Bill?

Led by Assembly Member James Brennan, the State Assembly joined the Senate and took a strong stand in support of transit riders this afternoon, passing the transit lockbox bill by a unanimous vote of 98-0. Speaker Sheldon Silver came out in support of the legislation last night, putting it on a smooth path through the Assembly. The question now is whether Cuomo will sign the bill — and there are a few indications that he may not.

Over the last two years, Albany has stolen $260 million in dedicated transit funds from the MTA in order to patch up deficits elsewhere in the budget. As a result, transit riders have absorbed a one-two punch of sweeping service cuts and higher fares.

The lockbox legislation would prevent future raids in two ways. It would prevent the governor from directly raiding the MTA — something that’s only cost the agency $1.3 million — and make the legislature less likely to raid transit in its budgets by including a set of disclosure requirements to make it clear what the impact of each theft will be on riders.

The bill passed thanks to its chief sponsors, Brennan and Senate Republican Marty Golden, as well as a very strong political coalition that included both labor, notably TWU Local 100, and business groups such as the New York Building Congress.

The effectiveness of their lobbying is apparent when compared to efforts to provide a similar lockbox for SUNY. Though SUNY has also been the subject of Albany raids, language to prevent the state from raiding tuition funds didn’t make it into the final bill. The universities will have to rely on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s public promises not to continue raiding SUNY.

Notably, Cuomo has refused to make such a promise to transit riders and raided a net $100 million from the MTA in his first budget. Before the Assembly had passed the lockbox bill, an anonymous transit advocate also told Transportation Nation’s Jim O’Grady, “We’re hearing that Cuomo is blocking the lockbox bill so that he can retain the ability to steal transit funds. (This is the same Cuomo who ran for governor last year on restoring honesty and ethics to government.)”

We’ll find out soon enough whether Cuomo decides to protect transit riders from raids and further service cuts or fare hikes, or whether he’d like to retain the option to use dedicated transit funds as a piggybank. With the bill having passed both houses of the legislature, Cuomo will have to sign or veto the legislation.


Will Cuomo Sign the Transit Lockbox Bill?

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, […]

Who, Me? Cuomo Vetoes Lockbox Bill, Denies Raiding Transit

Hours after the MTA announced that it would be scaling back planned fare hikes in part because of better-than-expected tax receipts, Governor Cuomo vetoed two transparency bills designed to discourage Albany from siphoning away those very same dedicated transit funds. The governor capped his veto with a brazen denial: Despite getting caught raiding the MTA’s budget earlier […]

Pressure Builds Upstate for Cuomo to Sign Transit Lockbox Bill

The transit lockbox bill, which would help safeguard dedicated transportation funds by requiring the state to disclose the impact of transit raids, still awaits a signature from Governor Cuomo following unanimous Senate and Assembly votes earlier this year. Now, two upstate newspapers are calling on the governor to sign the bill. A previous version of the […]