Cuomo’s Capital Budget: $3,400,000,000 for Roads, $0 for MTA

Here’s something NYC representatives should be screaming about in Albany: Governor Cuomo’s budget allocates more than $3 billion to roads and bridges but nothing to the MTA’s capital program, according to an analysis released today by the Riders Alliance. The discrepancy amounts to a gigantic transfer of resources from the New York City region to the statewide road program.

Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr

When Cuomo announced a few months ago that the state would commit $8.3 billion to the MTA’s five-year capital program, upstate representatives started howling about “parity” between funding for roads and bridges and funding for NYC transit. They saw the MTA getting a slice of state funds, and they wanted a cut for their districts.

But once the governor revealed his executive budget, the disparity actually ran in the other direction: Billions in direct subsidies were slated for roads and bridges, and no state money had been set aside for the MTA this year.

There’s no public policy rationale for transportation funding “parity” — just a political tradition of divvying up state resources in a manner that can garner a majority of votes in the state legislature. Viewing Cuomo’s budget proposal in that light, why should New York City’s assembly members and state senators vote for a spending plan that blatantly swindles their constituents?

Over the full five-year capital plan for roads and bridges, Cuomo is planning for $11.9 billion in direct state funding for the Department of Transportation, plus $2 billion in subsidies for the Thruway Authority, according to the Riders Alliance. By contrast, Cuomo has only spent $1 billion on the MTA’s five-year capital program. While the governor promised $7.3 billion in additional support, his budget delays that contribution indefinitely, essentially letting Cuomo avoid funding the MTA for as long as he remains in office.

And while the NYC region pays for a sizable share of the MTA capital plan — $11 billion — out of its own collective pocket through fares, tolls, and dedicated regional taxes, none of the state DOT’s capital funds come from local, dedicated revenue streams, the Riders Alliance reports. If the state continues to leave the MTA capital plan unfunded, subway and bus riders will end up shouldering more of the burden through higher fares.

This current budget proposal shows the huge imbalance created by Cuomo’s big dodge on MTA funding. Unless Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYC’s representatives change the governor’s budget, roads will get $3.4 billion in direct state subsidies plus $200 million in bank settlement funds, and New York City transit will get zilch.

  • Joe R.

    We’re heading right back to the 1970s era of deferred maintenance. I still remember well the devastating effects this had on the system. I particularly remember one time when I was going to high school on the #4 train. A train pulled in going the other direction. I could feel the heat radiating off its wheels, and the wheels were glowing a dull red. I guessed the brakes partially locked up enough to heat the wheels but not enough to prevent the train from moving. I didn’t hear about any incidents on the news that night but it’s hard to imagine running trains with wheels glowing red was a good thing. We’ll probably see that and more again at the rate we’re going.

  • neroden

    Nothing for upstate rail or buses, either, I’m guessing.

    Cuomo is a car fanatic. Well, we knew this; doesn’t he have a collection of sports cars? Hopefully the Senate and Assembly, who are not all car nuts, can override him.

  • walknseason

    LOL, and that douchebag de Blasio robocalled for this rightwinger.

    Serves him right – hopefully he’s run off the mayoralty and we can get an actual progressive next round.

  • JudenChino

    I think I know the reason: He’s an asshole who doesn’t give a shit as long as he doesn’t pay any political costs. Like for fucks sake, look what he’s doing to CUNY:
    and even worse, he then does it under the cover of combating antisemitism

    And this, is simply the same. Kiss the ring. And if not, looks like there’ll be traffic problem in Ft. Lee downstate. Too bad the tabloid press has not disabused most people’s belief that the Mayor is responsible for the MTA.

  • Jimmy

    Though it’s “off topic” for this blog, let’s not forget Cuomo’s heavy rotation of TV ads about the $15 minimum wage to give New Yorkers what they need blah blah blah… but then he turns around and is proposing to violently de-fund CUNY. Last time I checked, the colleges and universities were major contributors to the economic engine of the state (educated workforce and all that). But no… Fight for $15 minimum wage with one hand and destroy opportunities with the other.

    Someone should punch him in his smug face every time he calls himself a “progressive.”

  • JudenChino

    I had the exact same thought. WFP, just like the labor unions supporting Clinton, screwed themselves and their constituents by endorsing “the projected winner” instead of extracting concessions.

  • Joe R.

    Besides that, a $15 minimum wage is an insult to every person who worked hard in college to better themselves. Seriously, why bother if you can get $15 an hour flipping burgers at McDonalds? Wages should reflect the skill and education needed to do a job, not the cost of living. While I’m sympathetic to people having trouble making ends meet, the real answer to that is to drive down the market rate for housing, not pay people artificially high wages which put high-school drop outs on par with college graduates. In fact, I could probably make a good argument for throwing out the minimum wage altogether. Fact is some people aren’t even worth paying $3.75 an hour.

  • kevd

    “While I’m sympathetic to people having trouble making ends meet”
    Not really.

  • Brian Howald

    Gov. Cuomo attaches himself to some progressive cause once every two years to burnish his credentials and then goes right back to his usual no-problem-too-big-to-ignore-no-pissing-match-too-small-to-partake self. What’s his ultimate motive? Run for president?

  • Simon Phearson

    When and how do wages “reflect the skill and education needed to do a job”? Like, who’s to say an entry-level job at a McDonald’s is worth $8/hour vs. $15/hour? How do you even gauge that?

    The fact that entry-level workers are willing and able to compromise on their own welfare in order to compete for basement-level wages doesn’t mean that’s what their skills are “worth”; that’s just a product of the free market operating against a regulatory background that our policymakers have chosen. (For instance, consider the unpaid intern: typically highly-educated, but paid nothing. It doesn’t mean that their skills are worthless. It means that their employers are taking advantage of a gap in our regulatory enforcement.) If the wages paid by employers happen to be less than what a person needs to survive, that’s a cost that’s absorbed socially, either through the welfare state or through more informal support networks. So policymakers could reasonably decide that wages shouldn’t be any less than a certain amount, to avoid that social absorption of cost (which results in a private gain to the employer).

    I agree that housing and land use policy may be driving up the costs of living, but we’re not going to build our way to the point where the lack of bargaining power by employees no longer matters. If you lower the cost of living, more people will stay and move here, and the downward pressures on wages will remain.

    The “real” solution to low wages is to bolster workers’ rights to negotiate their own terms of employment. As it stands now, employers dictate, employees either accept or go unemployed. Workplaces and workforces need to get busy organizing. The labor market has changed since the union golden age, and the law continues to make things less hospitable for private unions, but we can evolve.

  • Joe R.

    To be fair, the idea of wages reflecting skill should apply on the high end of the scale also. CEOs aren’t worth multimillion-dollar pay. Neither are sports figures, entertainment figures, or any of a number of other positions. Maybe if we paid these people a heck of a lot less there would be more to pay people better on the low end of the scale and/or ticket prices at sports events or movies would be a lot less. I actually like the concept of a maximum wage more than a minimum wage.

    Don’t get me started on interns. They’re modern-day slave labor as far as I’m concerned. Unpaid interns are just a product of a society which refuses to invest money in training workers.

    The reason I’m opposed to much higher minimum wages, besides the fact you might have someone flipping burgers making as much as a college graduate, is that total wages are a zero sum game. In the short term, perhaps medium term, any company is limited by its revenue, which in turn is limited by the prices they charge versus demand. There is a sweet spot in price which maximizes revenue. From that revenue you need to pay expenses like wages. If you pay people on the low end much more, those in the middle will end up being paid on average less. It may be now you start at $3.75 an hour but can work your way up to $25 hour eventually. In the new world of $15 an hour starting salaries that might be all you’ll ever make. The incentive to do your job better to advance your career is gone. You suffer professionally, your customers likely suffer in the long run from apathetic employees with little incentive to do better.

    That said, I’m fine with higher wages if productivity increases.

    When and how do wages “reflect the skill and education needed to do a job”?

    To a rough extent jobs requiring more education and experience pay more. Jobs requiring similar background of course pay differently in different fields. I said years ago I wish there was some kind of standardized wage scale across industries where pay is tied to education, innate ability, difficulty/danger of work, and so forth. It would probably be really complex to account for everything but I feel we can do way better than now where skilled interns are paid zero but a jerk CEO with good negotiating skills ends up with millions.

  • Maggie

    Total wages are a zero sum game.

    I’ve read that the share of GDP going to labor has been falling since about 1980.


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