As Albany wavers on MTA money, cuts and hikes simmer on the horizon

By · Published in 2008

The news just keeps getting worse for the MTA. Seven days after we learned that the MTA will have to indefinitely postpone planned service upgrades, the news out of Albany is rather dire for the financially-strapped organization.

According to reports from the weekend, Gov. David Patterson may be slashing $60 million in transit funds originally promised to the MTA by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. With the MTA already looking at a deficit of $200 million next year, this news bodes ill for New Yorkers. Pete Donohue has more:

Gov. Paterson has proposed slashing $60 million in transit funds that the MTA has been banking on as it confronts looming deficits, officials said Friday…

The MTA’s 2008 budget and four-year fiscal plan envision a $338 million increase in revenues from the state’s Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance fund.

Authority officials had said they received assurances from the Spitzer administration that the funds would be provided because in the past the state had diverted mass transit money to other purposes.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky put the bad news into very simple terms. With these cuts, he said, “a fare increase next year is almost inevitable.” New Yorkers recently stuck with a fare hike and shafted by the MTA’s financial situation are not going to embrace this news.

Meanwhile, we’re once again in a situation where Albany is shafting New York City. In November, as the MTA was gearing up for the public hearing process of the fare hike procedure, representatives in Albany routinely urged the MTA to hold off on the fare hike. Just ask for more money, they urged MTA CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander. Well, unsurprisingly, now that the MTA has asked for the money, the state is rolling back financial promises. Surprise!

All of this politicking harkens back to a critique I leveled at then-Gov. Spitzer a few months ago and one that Marc Shepherd revisited in a comment on Sunday. Marc wrote:

Recall that the MTA originally planned a steeper fare hike. Governor Spitzer insisted that it be scaled back. Spitzer compounded the misery by holding the largely symbolic “base fare” at $2.00, ensuring that the beneficiaries of his generosity would be those who ride the subway the least often. Had the MTA been allowed to go forward with their original fare proposal, they’d have the resources to implement the service improvements that they’ve now been forced to postpone.

I’m willing to take that one step further. Not only would they be able to implement the service improvements, but they’d be able to stomach Albany’s reneging on its promised funds. The MTA did Albany a favor by embracing a fare hike structure that was beneficial to the tourists and sometime-subway riders who pay per ride. The agency has been repaid with less money and yet another looming fare hike. When will this cycle ever end?

Categories : MTA Economics

4 Responses to “As Albany wavers on MTA money, cuts and hikes simmer on the horizon”

  1. The Secret Conductor says:

    Well… may Albany didn’t promise… maybe just Spitzer just did. Now with Spitzer gone, many of the things that was promised for the MTA, including promised made to MTA employees will go undone.

    Also keep in mind that Albany did the same thing with NYC education. The state still has not paid, even though the judge has ordered them to do so.

    But they take the tax money generated from NYC. The MTA is a major reason why NYC generates so much money… and yet it will do its best not to pay for it.

  2. Maybe Spitzer promised, but Brodsky did too. We’ll see if he comes through tomorrow.


  1. […] and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After facing lower-than-expected revenues and the threat of less money from Albany, the MTA needed a win, and they have received at least a provisional win. The money from the […]

  2. […] Indirectly, then, Russianoff’s piece brings us to another conclusion: The MTA has suffered financially not because they have been denied funds from their dedicated revenue sources but because state and city institutions have not come through with fiscal contributions to the transit authority. For decades, public officials have promised the MTA money to cover budget gaps when dedicated revenue streams can’t cover everything, and for decades, public officials have reneged on those promises. For the most recent example of this, we need look no further than Monday when news came that Albany may not deliver all that was once promised. […]

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