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Challenger Attacks Marty Golden and Senate GOP for Anti-Transit Stance

Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat running against State Senator Marty Golden, has made Republican opposition to MTA funding an issue in his campaign. Photo via Flickr.

Andrew Cuomo may have handed continued control of the State Senate to the Republican Party by allowing them to draw their own districts, but 2012 is still an election year. With the Senate leadership's latest attack on transit funding, they aren't making it any easier for their New York City candidates to win.

In passing a budget resolution that would cut $770 million in MTA funding and prevent the authority from raising its debt ceiling, the Senate Republicans appear to have handed Democrats a campaign issue in transit-rich downstate districts. Already, at least one challenger has taken up the opportunity: Andrew Gounardes, a Bay Ridge resident running against Senator Marty Golden.

Golden has stood up for transit at times, sponsoring the lockbox bill that passed the legislature last year only to be neutered by Cuomo. This week, however, he joined Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Transportation Commitee Chair Charles Fuschillo and added his name to a letter defending the caucus's attempt to bust the MTA budget.

In a press release, Gounardes blasted Golden for not standing up for his transit-riding constituents. It's worth quoting Gounardes in full:

"As I knock on doors across the district, public transportation is one of the top issues raised by voters. In Bay Ridge, they want their B37 and weekend express buses back and more accessibility for seniors and the disabled. In Bensonhurst, they want station and track improvements that don't disrupt businesses. In Sheepshead Bay, riders worry that the B4 may be on the chopping block next. Instead of leading the fight to reinvest in public transit, our State Senator Marty Golden and his fellow Republican leaders in the Senate are seeking to cut $770 million in MTA funding!

Just last year, Marty Golden was touting his transit lockbox bill to protect transit funding from being raided. Now, when the cameras are off, he's doing the raiding! That's money that could restore bus services, put an elevator at 86th Street, and improve train service on the R, D, and N lines. As commuters in Brooklyn know all too well, those trains are among the worse performing in the whole city.

It's just another episode in an endless series of Senator Golden telling his constituents that he'll work for them, then voting for upstate interests in Albany. His fellow Republican leader Budget Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco justified the MTA cuts by saying,"We don't have too many MTA trains going to Syracuse." So is Marty Golden fighting for Syracuse or Brooklyn? With budgets tight and Brooklynites bearing the burden of more fare hikes and more service cuts, it's time for him to pick a side."

Gounardes' transportation platform also calls for providing transit with a new dedicated revenue stream (he suggests a commuter tax), improving pedestrian safety with 20 mph zones and speed cameras, and rider representation on the MTA board.

In their letter, the Senate Republicans argue that allowing the MTA to take on more debt would be irresponsible given the transit system's already shaky financial situation. In reality, Senate Republicans have been happy to approve MTA spending, especially when it benefits Long Island constituents, while blocking all attempts to pay for new construction with taxes or road pricing. Skelos, Fuschillo and Golden do not justify the $770 million cut in their letter; cutting revenues, after all, is rarely considered an effective way to reduce debts.

The Republican budget proposal is generally considered to be a bargaining position, not a set of policies likely to be enacted. More consequential was the Senate's vote to roll back the payroll mobility tax, which in time could cost the MTA hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

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