State Senators push for more fiscal oversight

By · Published in 2010

As politicians have blustered about calling for more financial oversight of the MTA, a bipartisan group of State Senators have taken the plunge forward on this project. Earlier this year, Carl Marcellino, a Republican, and six co-sponsors introduced a bill that would create an MTA Interim Finance Authority. The interim authority would administer and oversee all of the MTA’s fiscal responsibilities and, ideally, lend even more transparency to what has become a fairly transparent budget process. A similar bill has been submitted to the state Assembly, but both have simply been referred to committee so far.

In discussing the bill with the Brooklyn Eagle, State Senator Martin Golden, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, leveled a familiar charge toward the MTA. “The leadership of the MTA has failed time and time again to properly manage the agency finances,” he said, “and yet, it seems that everyone knows and acknowledges that this problem exists, but no one wants to take the MTA on. No matter what actions are taken, the MTA continues to create an even greater deficit.”

Let us supposed that the Senate and Assembly approve this bill. Let us suppose that the MTA Interim Finance Authority comes into being and helps with a forensic audit of the MTA. Who will these Senators blame when the MTA’s finances are found to be acceptably accurate and the deficit keeps growing? They won’t point fingers at themselves, but they are the ones to blame.

Categories : Asides, MTA Politics

18 Responses to “State Senators push for more fiscal oversight”

  1. SG says:

    They’ll blame the jumpers. Duh.

  2. Boris says:

    There are certainly ways the MTA can be more efficient, but the way to get there is by removing layers of bureaucracy, not adding them.

    Lately I’ve been interested in non-profits. The MTA would function much more efficiently as a non-profit, because it wouldn’t have implicit government backing. Of course that would also mean across-the-board lower wages and fewer employees, something the government and the unions don’t want.

    • Aaron says:


      Isn’t that just… another layer of bureaucracy? Changing the nature of an agency doesn’t abrogate contracts, if that’s your beef.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Non-profits fail all the time – just look at how they mismanage international development aid.

      The MTA needs competent people and a competent management structure; it doesn’t need reform for the sake of reform.

      • Boris says:

        Non-profits fail because they can – they don’t have implicit government guarantees. They can work as efficiently as private corporations because they don’t have that safety net and are under pressure to perform. The MTA can’t fail, or at least it can’t fail fast enough to expose its problems for all to see. It needs managers who will get fired if they fail at their jobs.

  3. Josh K says:

    @Boris: The MTA is already a non-profit corporation (actually it’s over a dozen non-profits). People forget that corporation doesn’t just mean a company, that even towns in NY are actually corporations. The town of Cortlandt in Westchester County was “incorporated” in 1788. The modern popular understanding of the term corporation didn’t come about until the late 19th century.

    What the MTA needs is:
    1) Dedicated, reliable and predictable revenue streams.
    2) A massive organizational overhaul, including the reorganization of the different divisions (MTA Bus, MTA Rail, MTA Subway and MTA Bridges and Tunnels). This should involve a major overhaul of the labor contracts, which can be aided by setting all of the next round of contracts to end at roughly the same time.
    3) Better PR campaigns, ones that actually rebut unfair assertions made by public officials.

    • 3) Better PR campaigns, ones that actually rebut unfair assertions made by public officials.

      I’ve thought about this for a while, and I think the MTA’s problem is that if they start criticizing public officials, they are literally biting the hand that feeds them. Those same public officials are the ones who, for better or worse, control the funding mechanisms that keep the MTA alive, and the MTA can’t bash them every time they say something uninformed or stupid.

      What we need is an advocacy organization that does just that instead.

      • AK says:

        I think that is a legitimate concern, Ben, but I do think the MTA should stand up for itself a bit more. For one thing, public officials need not “control” the mechanisms of funding in a well-functioning democracy with an educated electorate. I believe that if MTA could show voters how Albany/NYC have shafted them, they could earn some popular support (as they have, to a limited extent, with the student metrocard issue).

      • Boris says:

        At the last hearings, did the MTA make any kind of presentation before the public comment process? All it needs to do is put the facts out there; it doesn’t need to criticize anyone. The politicians who came up to speak would look a little silly if immediately before it was made clear how many times they voted to cut MTA funding.

  4. Anon says:

    @Josh K the MTA is a Public Benefit Corporation (it’s not a Not or Non for profit)

    Interesting enough, the USPS became a for profit agency only in the last few years (but scanning the blogosphere, no one seems to know this.

  5. The only conceivable value added that could come from yet another layer of financial oversight would be if, miracle of miracles, the panel were to reach the objective conclusion that what the MTA needs MOST is more revenue.

  6. Al D says:

    That’s what we need, another corrupt authority to supervise another corrupt authority. Boy that really makes all the sense when all one has to do is go back to the Ravitch Report for all you need to know. In addition, had not Shelly killed congestion pricing, a steady stream of funds the MTA have would…

  7. Larry Littlefield says:

    The Financing Authority will expose the truth about the MTA: that it can cover its deficits without fare hikes or service cuts by borrowing money and eliminating the capital plan.

    There would be no negative effect on New York State residents who are the age of the state legislators sponsoring the legislation, as their generation will have finished pillaging and died off or passed on before the system collapses.

    How is it that the most privileged generations in U.S. history are the whiniest and neediest? Aren’t these legislators their representatives in reality?

    • AK says:

      I would only make one amendment to your comment, Larry, and that is that we aren’t talking about the most privileged generations in U.S. history, we’re talking about the most privileged generations in the history of man (and it’s not even close)..


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