For Second Year, MTA Funding Tops NYLCV’s Transpo Agenda

Between continued raids on dedicated transit funds, a cut to the MTA payroll tax, and the state’s decision to pay for the last three years of the MTA capital plan with debt, 2011 wasn’t a good year for the MTA’s finances. The New York League of Conservation Voters is hoping that 2012 turns out to be kinder to transit riders.

In their annual legislative agenda, released today, transit funding dominates the environmental organization’s transportation agenda. “Mass transit and good transportation infrastructure are critical not only for the environment, labor mobility and safety – they are literally the lifeblood of the state’s economy,” explained NYLCV communications director Dan Hendrick. “It’s high time for our state leaders to roll up their sleeves, fix the MTA and invest in our future.”

The three transportation-specific agenda items are: preventing any additional raids on dedicated transit funds, funding the last three years of the MTA capital plan, and raising the gas tax to account for inflation (state gas tax revenues fund both road projects and transit).

The first two of those goals, however, were also included in NYLCV’s 2011 agenda and if anything, 2012 looks like a less promising legislative environment for transit funding. If the Cuomo administration wasn’t eyeing more raids on dedicated MTA funds, they likely wouldn’t have “eviscerated” the unanimously-passed transit lockbox bill late last year.

NYLCV’s sustainable development goals may have a better chance of passage, however. The organization hopes that Cuomo’s regional economic development councils continue to fund smart growth projects, for example. The first round of grants won acclaim for mostly building upon existing infrastructure rather than promoting sprawl; the Long Island grants, in particular, went to revitalizing downtowns and areas near the LIRR.

Hendrick promised that in the upcoming election cycle, in which New Yorkers will vote for their Assembly and State Senate representatives, NYLCV will be holding legislators accountable for their positions on transportation and sustainability. “This year, we are sharpening our political approach by clearly connecting these transportation goals with our endorsements and campaign decisions,” said Hendrick. “Lawmakers who advance our sustainability agenda will earn NYLCV’s endorsement and be eligible for PAC support for their re-election campaigns. Those who do not, will not – and, in fact, we may well end up campaigning against lawmakers who oppose good transportation investments.”

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