When it comes to transit policy, Carl Paladino is the gift that keeps on giving. Just one week after threatening to take apart the MTA piece by piece, the Republican nominee for New York State governor said that he wants to flat-out abolish the MTA. His reasons, of course, make no sense.
As Kenneth Lovett of the Daily News relates, Paladino wants to, in the words of the News reporter, “make the agency a state department that answers directly to the governor.” Of course, Paladino conveniently forgets that the governor is responsible for appointing the MTA head and that the authority already answers to the state assembly’s oversight committee.
The best parts though are Paladino’s direct quotes. He said:
“The bottom line is the MTA as we know it today needs to be abolished so the voters can demand that someone can be held accountable for the rampant waste in the system and the taxes and rider fees that feed the bureaucratic beast…
“The MTA is horribly mismanaged and it’s a sinkhole of money. It’s among the least transparent entities in the world and was even found to have kept two separate sets of books. New Yorkers are paying more each year getting less in service.”
Here, Paladino is flat-out lying. As I’ve documented in the past, the 2003 claim by then-Comptroller and now-convicted felon Alan Hevesi that the MTA kept two sets of books was disproved in federal court. Today, the MTA is not among the least transparent authorities in the country but rather among the most transparent. Its budget documents are on full display for anyone to see. Paladino, apparently, has never bothered to look for the information.
Meanwhile, he’s not wrong to say that the authority historically has been a sinkhole of money, but lately, those in charge have reversed that trend. On Jay Walder’s watch, the MTA has cut $730 million in annual expenses and is working to keep costs under control. New Yorkers do pay more for less service, but that’s because Paladino’s GOP predecessors — and in particular, Rudy Giuiliani and George Pataki — foisted billions of dollars of debt onto the MTA in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In the end, Paladino explained his rationale in a way that actually makes some sense. “Mayors, governors and legislators want to be able to rail against the MTA,” he said, “but they really want to be insulated against the decisions that they make so the voters can’t blame them for increasing fares and services cuts.”
As Cap’n Transit wrote back in 2008, that’s exactly why the MTA should be abolished. If the voters knew how badly state officials were screwing over transit and how responsible these officials are for fare hikes and service cuts, perhaps we would see a better approach to transit policy.
But Paladino’s original reasons for abolishing the MTA simply do not hold up to scrutiny. The agency is not horribly mismanaged right now, and it’s quite transparent. There’s still a long road toward a lean structure at the authority, but it’s finally on the right track. Turning it into another subsidiary of the New York State Department of Transportation, as Paladino seems to suggest, would be a considerable setback. The MTA as we knew it five years ago needed to be abolished, and that’s the process we’re seeing unfold today.