Widening Coalition Calls Out Cuomo for Abandoning Transit

Anger over Governor Cuomo’s disregard for transit riders during this week’s special session continues to grow. Since yesterday, two new organizations have signed on to a letter calling out the governor for neutering transit lockbox legislation that the State Assembly and State Senate had passed unanimously. The League of Women’s Voters of New York City and the Center for Working Families are the new signatories.

The governor who abandoned transit. Michael Nagle/Getty Images via ##http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/?attachment_id=8##Times Union##

By taking out disclosure requirements triggered by future Albany raids on dedicated transit funds, Cuomo “eviscerated” the bill, as a staffer for Assembly sponsor Jim Brennan told Streetsblog. Cuomo’s lockbox play came on top of his deal with the Senate Republicans to cut the MTA payroll tax by $320 million a year, money which the MTA may or may not ever see reimbursed.

The lockbox letter highlights the broad coalition dismayed by Cuomo’s abandonment of his ostensible commitments to transit and good government. Read it in full, and see the list of supporters, below:

Amalgamated Transit Union
NYS Council of Machinists
Center for Working Families
NY League of Conservation Voters
Citizens Committee for NYC
Reinvent Albany
Common Cause/ NY
Straphangers Campaign NYPIRG
General Contractors Association
Transportation Alternatives
League of Women Voters City of NY
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
League of Women Voters NY State
TWU Local 100
Natural Resources Defense Council


December 8, 2011

Our groups are disappointed that Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority leader Skelos
and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver used this special session to effectively nullify
the provisions of the transit “lock box” bill that was overwhelmingly passed during
the regular session. We thank State Senator Marty Golden and Assembly member
Jim Brennan for their leadership sponsoring the original bill.

The original legislation made it more difficult for the governor to unilaterally divert
MTA dedicated transit funds, and required an impact statement detailing the effects
on transit service if dedicated funds were taken. The “lockbox” bill (S.4257C/A.
6766C) was a reaction to the diversion of $260 million in dedicated transit funds
over the last three years. These diversions contributed to the worst metropolitan-
area transit service cuts in memory.

We do not support the substitute legislation passed in this special session. It does
not constrain future raids on transit funds, and deletes the requirement that the
impacts of the diversion of transit dedicated funds be reported.

The strong principle of the original legislation – that MTA dedicated transit funds
should be spent on transit, attracted a wide range of supporters, listed below, and
editorial endorsements from the New York Times and Crain’s.

Groups endorsing the now nullified “Transit Lockbox” Bill:

Amalgamated Transit Union, ATU Local 726, ATU Local 1056, ATU Local 1179
ATU Local 1181-1061, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York
Asian Americans for Equality, Center for Working Families, Citizens Committee for NYC,
Common Cause/NY, Construction Industry Council, CUNY Institute for Urban Systems,
DC 37, DC 37 Local 375B, DC37 Local 1655, Empire State Transportation Alliance,
Environmental Defense Fund, General Contractors Association of New York, League of
Women Voters of the City of NY, League of Women Voters of New York State, Long Island
Contractors’ Association, Inc. (LICA), MTA Coalition of Unions, National Conference of
Firemen and Oilers, New York Building Congress, NY League of Conservation Voters,
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, NYS Council of Machinists, NY State Legislative Conference
Board, NYS Transportation Equity Alliance, PCAC to MTA, Pratt Center for Community
Development, Regional Plan Association, Reinvent Albany, Teamsters Local 808, Transit
Riders Action Committee, Transportation Alternatives, TWU Local 100, TWU Local 252,
TWU Local2001, TWU Local 2054, Transport Workers International Union of America, Tri-
State Transportation Campaign, UPROSE, We Act for Environmental Justice, Women’s City Club.

  • Glenn

    Cuomo should read the section in Caro’s “Power Broker” where then Governor Rockefeller combined the TBTA with the regional mass transit system. It was an elegant solution to a vexing political problem of how to fund mass transit. There’s a very clear set of policy levers that could be pulled all at once and create a lasting and permanent funding mechanism for mass transit for generations while also rationalizing the region’s tolls to lower them for the periphery while increasing them for cars entering the CBD. Something akin to Sam Schwartz’s bridge toll plan along with the Kheel plan would be a real gamechanger.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There is another side to this.  When I look at some of the names on this list, I don’t see organizations that have been in favor of supporting the MTA.  I see organizations that have been sucking money out of it while demonizing it.  I see the destroyers of the future of the transit system.  I see those who are far more culpable that Cuomo.

    New York Building Congress?  Construction Industry Council?  General Contractors Association of New York?  Do you know what these people have done to the price they charge the MTA for capital projects?  For signal projects, the most expensive, they doubled the price from the Astoria Line project to the West End project.

    The TWU?  The Amalgamated Transit Union?  The latest TWU contract was double the rate of inflation while over workers had falling wages.  They got a retroactive pension enhancement with a big retroactive cost of living adjustment, pensions based on the last year of work (to facilitate spiking) and a 75%-plus cut in their own career contributions to the pensions in 2000, causing costs to soar.  And the ATU got a deal for the city to assume the underfunded pension plans of the private bus companies, a hugely expensive boon.

    MTA Coalition of Unions?  Does that include the Long Island Railroad unions, who should be prosecuted under RICO statues after that disability fraud scheme that went on for decades.

    NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign?  They loved those huge effective fare cuts from 1995 to 2002, even though all the money was borrowed to make up for it.  The fare is still lower in real dollars than it was in 1995 but hey, no problem, just go to deferred maintenance.  The system probably won’t fall apart until those who matter have left.  And dedicated funds didn’t mean much to them when they wanted to raid the capital plan for short term needs.

    Along with blaming Cuomo for not solving the problem, let’s remember who caused it.  He probably thinks that whatever resources he puts it, they’ll just suck more out.

    Hey Straphangers, why give more money to an organization whose service is only worth $1.10 on average?  Hey TWU, why give more money to an organization where $billions are wasted on huge raises for to many managers?  They have plenty of money but waste it all, you have propagandized for years and years and years.

    And Jim Brennan?  Really?  

    They can lock all those revenues in the box and guess what, there is still not enough money to prevent a return to the 1970s.  Not because there is not enough money, because there is enough money but it is all being sucked into the past because no one cared about the future.


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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, […]

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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 […]