Sooner or Later, the Cuomo Fare Hike Is Coming

Earlier this week, Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff crunched the numbers to see what could happen if Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t follow through on his pledge to restore the $320 million in MTA funding cuts he signed into law on Monday. The cost to commuters, the economy, and public health, he found, could substantially outweigh the value of the tax relief.

Andrew Cuomo, who governs the state with more transit riders than any other, basks in the glow of cutting $320 million in dedicated transit funding. Photo: ##'s Office##

Cuomo spokesperson Matt Wing sent this response to Komanoff:

Your facts, assumptions and analysis are wrong. The reduction in the payroll tax will not cost the MTA one dollar and to suggest otherwise ignores the law.

Cuomo is trying to define the terms of the debate like so: If Albany makes up for the hundreds of millions in payroll tax revenue he just cut, then he did no harm to transit riders and the regional economy.

But the damage is all but inevitable.

The governor may very well scrounge up $320 million for the MTA this year, but make no mistake — straphangers will feel the pain of his transit funding cut. Albany commitments to fund transit never hold up over time. Consider:

  • In 2001, Albany contributed $144 million in general taxes to MTA operations [PDF]. Now it contributes $7 million.
  • When Governor Hugh Carey left office in 1982, Albany contributed $1.5 billion to the MTA’s five-year capital program. By 1992, under Governor Mario Cuomo, Albany wasn’t putting in a penny.
  • Until 2009, Albany was contributing $45 million a year to fund student Metrocards. Then legislators threatened to cut the contribution down to $7 million. Eventually they consented to $25 million.

When Cuomo signed the MTA payroll tax cut into law, surrounded by Long Island politicians, he made it out to be a boon for job creation. But Cuomo’s appeasement of suburban political interests will hit straphangers hard. A weaker transit system means job-seekers will have less access to employment, employers will have less talent to draw from, and New Yorkers will have to deal with higher transportation costs.

The governor may find a way to restore the money this year, and even the next. Maybe Cuomo will patch up the hole he gouged in the MTA budget until 2016. The patches won’t last forever, though. Transit riders will pay for this funding cut eventually, just like they’ll pay for Cuomo’s decision to fund the MTA capital plan by borrowing. Sooner or later, the Cuomo fare hike is coming.

  • Mark Walker

    Far more damaging than the Cuomo fare hike — the Cuomo service cuts.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Calling it the Cuomo fare hike and the Cuomo service cuts absolves a heck of a lot of decisions made over a heck of a long time. 

    It is interesting that you mention the deperation 1992 budget under then-Governor Mario Cuomo.  That was the first such decision with regard to the MTA.  That budget also featured the state selling the Thruway to itself, having the Thruway Authority take on huge debts to pay for a short term budget problem, one reason there is no money for the Tappan Zee today.

    Mario Cuomo had been a fiscally responsible governor up until that budget, described at the time as the “big ugly.”  He would probably say it was a response to a crisis.  But from that point forward the future selling never stopped, in good times and bad, has his generation (Mario Cuomo, Warren Anderson et all) was replaced by a new generation — Pataki, Silver, and Bruno.

  • Tsuyoshi

    Wing must be pretty well paid to be able to say such nonsense with a straight face.

  • ladyperson

    How much has NYC contributed over the years? What’s the Bloomberg contribution to the MTA been? Am wondering where the shortfalls will get covered. (Or if.)

  • Larry Littlefield

    “How much has NYC contributed over the years? What’s the Bloomberg contribution to the MTA been? Am wondering where the shortfalls will get covered. (Or if.)”Like the state’s contribution, the city’s contribution was slashed in the deep early 1990s recession and fiscal crisis, and never restored when good times turned, by either Giuliani or Bloomberg.  There was absolutely no interest in contributing to the MTA by any member of City Council during this period.  Just demands on the agency.When challenged on this issue, Bloomberg responsed that the people of NYC could best support the MTA through MTA-specific taxes (such as the payroll tax then enacted) and measures such as congestion pricing, which he had proposed.The best way to get the city to support the MTA is the way I have suggested.  Make the MTA the MRA (rail) by having it give up bus and paratransit service — and the payroll tax.  The city could keep the tax and use it to run buses itself, on the streets it operates.  The suburban counties could ditch it and deal with local transit as they wished.

  • Albanitis

    Transit advocates are simply getting their asses kicked up in Albany. Do
    we have a lobbying firm? Are we giving money to the right people? Do we
    simply not have enough money for Albany to care about transit?

    For example: Whatever lobbyists the taxi industry hired to convince Andrew Cuomo to kill NYC’s outer borough tax hailing effort — transit advocates should hire that firm.

  • Mrbadexample

    Cuomo is simply going where the money is–absent downstate and Manhattan, NY State is on the same precarious fiscal footing as Indiana or Michigan.  Lots of rust belt industries not coming back, lots of upstate voters who treat NYC like a cash cow. And the problem is that there’s no one to run to the left of Cuomo and call him out on this sort of thing. the Repubs don’t want to invest in mass transit, and they’re happy to redistribute NY’s MTA tax proceeds. It would be a worthwhile platform to run on, but not for Carl Paladino or even Rick Lazio.

    Guess I’ll keep biking to work–at least then i have a seat…


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