Photo Courtesy of Assemblyman Robert Carroll’s Office
Members of the State Senate and Assembly gathered outside the Times Square subway station this week to release new letters from 65 legislators, demanding that Gov. Cuomo agree to restore $65 million in promised MTA funding that he has threatened to cut in this year’s budget.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Transit advocates and members of the state Legislature this week gathered outside the Times Square subway station to release new letters from 65 legislators, demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo agree to restore $65 million in promised Metropolitan Transportation Authority funding that he has threatened to cut in the Fiscal Year 2018 executive budget.
According to the transit advocacy group the Riders Alliance, the legislators’ letters “open a new front in the battle over transit funding, which riders and advocates say is particularly important at a time when subway delays have more than tripled in five years and severe crowding has become a daily feature of New Yorkers’ commutes.”
In 2011, RA noted, Cuomo and lawmakers scaled back the Payroll Mobility Tax that helps fund the MTA, but promised to replace the missing funds every year. And for six years, the State kept its promise, contributing between $307 and $311 million each year to offset the revenue that was lost because of the 2011 tax cuts. Last year the amount was $309 million.
But this year, for the first time in his tenure in Albany, Cuomo has proposed to put only $244 million toward the missing funds – a 21-percent reduction that would leave the MTA with a $65 million gap.
“As someone who has used mass transit to get around for most of my life, and as a Senator representing a district that is in need of more transportation options, I know first-hand how devastating this $65 million proposed cut to the MTA’s budget would be for commuters by potentially causing delays and overcrowding,” said State Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (D-South Ozone Park). “I stand with my colleagues in government in asking the Governor to keep his promise and continue to provide the full funds outlined in 2011 restructuring of the Payroll Mobility Tax.”
However, Cuomo has argued that his funding cut is not a cut because overall the MTA is getting more money than last year. Riders Alliance has called Cuomo’s position “misleading in multiple ways:”
Cuomo is taking credit for tax revenues from other sources like real estate taxes and gas taxes that fluctuate up and down each year, but which he has no control over—that revenue must be given to the MTA.
Where Cuomo does have discretion, including in these funds that were promised to replace lost payroll mobility tax revenue, he is choosing to cut $65 million.
These funds were specifically promised to the MTA in addition to the other revenue sources. The State does not add extra funds in years when those revenue sources go down, and has never before subtracted funds in years when they are up.
“New Yorkers are already frustrated with the lack of good public transportation options, fare increases, and unreliable service. A cut in MTA funding would make this situation even worse for our city’s subway and bus riders,” added State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). “The proposed budget must be improved and appropriate funds must be provided in order make needed improvements.”