Home Asides House GOP budget could cut MTA aid

House GOP budget could cut MTA aid

by Benjamin Kabak

As MTA appropriations come under fire in New York State, the GOP-controlled House could attempt to take money away from New York’s transit agency as well. As amNew York reports today, a House budget proposal under consideration this week could take $1 billion in federal aid away from the city. Included in those cuts are $73 million in grants the MTA would have used for “rail and bus infrastructure and security projects.”

I’m working on tracking down the text of this bill, but needless to say, this development is not a welcome one. By and large, though, I’m surprised to see any cuts in security funding. The subway system remains one of the most vulnerable and attractive terrorist targets in the nation, and we shouldn’t wait for an attack to make sure the system is protected.

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Anon February 14, 2011 - 6:51 pm Reply
Anon February 14, 2011 - 6:53 pm Reply
Alon Levy February 14, 2011 - 7:17 pm

Dear GOP,

We want our $10 billion a year back.

New York.

E. Aron February 14, 2011 - 7:57 pm

you should address that to the Congress. the same occurred when the donkeys were running the show, albeit w/o threats to reduce MTA funding.

Alon Levy February 14, 2011 - 9:26 pm

The Dems don’t demagogue about how New York isn’t part of real America.

Donald February 14, 2011 - 8:34 pm

How does extra funding protect the subway from terrorist attacks? Are you going to install metal detectors manned by TSA agents at every single station? Are we going to pat down riders or make them walk through full body scanners?

Tsuyoshi February 14, 2011 - 9:07 pm

Maybe it pays for those random bag searches…

Donald February 14, 2011 - 11:45 pm

Do you think a terrorist is going to be stupid enough to walk through an entrance with a random bag search when the entrance 300 feet away does not have a random bag search? I see it all the time at the 42nd St. PABT station. The entrance by the south wing of the PABT has random bag searches. But the entrance by the north wing NEVER has it. Not once have I seen them there. If the NYPD is never going to rotate the locations of the bag searches, then they are just wasting money and time doing it.

Ed A. February 14, 2011 - 10:58 pm

Try the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie called “Total Recall.” That movie has a part where body scanners (presumably manned by a fictionalized TSA in the future) are common with dogs in some subway station.

Benjamin Kabak February 14, 2011 - 11:47 pm

Donald: From your comments, you seem like a smart guy. Do you truly not understand how extra funding can be used to bolster security for our subway system?

Don’t let the charade of bag checks fool you; there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that straphangers don’t see on a daily basis that is trying to keep us safe. Taking money away from subway security won’t help a tough and potentially dangerous situation.

Donald February 15, 2011 - 5:07 pm

I’m all for security, but not security THEATER. Whenever I ride the subway, the cops seem far more concerned about catching fare beaters than they do terrorists. When my father used his employee fare pass to ride the subway for free recently, two cops came out of nowhere and demanded to see his card to make sure it was his. Then I see cops hiding behind closed token booths all the time to wait for turnstyle jumpers.

Security funding is important, but let’s use it in an effective way. Not security theater or to catch fare beaters.

Donald February 15, 2011 - 5:15 pm


The best way to secure the subway is to have more boots on the ground (more cops). Yet, today the NYPD has thousands of fewer cops than it did on 9/11. I would fully support additional funding if it went toward more cops and not technology whose effectiveness is questionable.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 2:49 pm

Extra funding could go to improving ventilation in the tunnels, getting trash cans sturdy enough to remain intact when a bomb inside explodes, etc.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 3:26 am

Perhaps if NYC and the state were more willing to get rid of a number of deadbeat city and state workers, we wouldn’t be in this problem and would have more money to invest in transportation.

Governments are broke everywhere, and these days austerity (budget cutting) is all the rage. New York will have to find more ways of trimming the budget of all state and city agencies, MTA included. This is just the reality of the times.

Benjamin Kabak February 15, 2011 - 8:26 am

It’s very easy to say that these days, but after cutting $500 million in annual savings from the budget, what more would you propose to cut? After a point, it does cost money to run a transit agency as extensive as New York’s.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 3:51 pm

The MTA and NYC have no choice but to do with less. The federal and state governments are giving them less, and NYC cannot increase taxes. NYC had a number of companies which used to be headquartered here, American Airlines, UPS, GE, all of which have bailed out of NYC and moved to other states.

But back to service cuts, NYC will have to eliminate even more bus routes (the city could use less crosstown buses, Manhattan is quite WALKABLE). It may one day have to get rid of token booth clerks entirely. It may have to start charging for the Staten Island Ferry again.

And it may have to push labor costs at the MTA down. Like Bloomberg is finally doing for city employees. Things such as increasing employee contributions to health care and pensions, raising the retirement age, etc.

You cannot expect politicians to treat the MTA as a sacred cow when education is getting cut, prisons are getting cut, and all other agencies are getting cut. The state of Arizona decided not to provide medicaid funding for transplants, and certain other medical assistance has been cut. Teachers are being laid off. Cops are being laid off.

With all these cutbacks, you’d better believe that the MTA will be making even more cutbacks, and people will just have to deal with it, as not everything in the world revolves around MTA funding!

Benjamin Kabak February 15, 2011 - 3:54 pm

When the city is left with a transit network that makes it impossible for teachers and cops to get to work, we’ll see what tune you’re signing then.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 4:36 pm

Every teacher or cop I know DRIVES to work, partially because they get free parking on the job. I wouldn’t worry about them.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 4:43 pm

The New York Stock Exchange is being bought by the German Bourse. Finance is the only major private sector NYC has left, and that is a shadow of its former self, as many prominent banks when under in the past three years ( investment banks Bear Sterns, Merril Lynch, Lehman Brothers, commercial banks such as WAMU and Wachovia). Of the three biggest banks, JP Morgan CHase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, only one is headquartered in NYC.

The true problem NYC may have is that it no longer truly has the tax base to properly support its infastructure. If the German takeover of the New York Stock Exchange finishes NYC off as a center of finance, then NYC and the MTA are done, plain and simple.

I of course won’t be hanging around for that, later on this year moving to either the Pacific or Gulf Coasts. But yes, the MTA is screwed.

VLM February 15, 2011 - 4:45 pm

Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

Andrew February 20, 2011 - 9:56 am

Except that the state is already diverting dedicated tax revenues – instituted specifically to fund the MTA, collected specifically in the MTA region – to other purposes. And now the state is cutting even further. I do think there is something sacred about dedicated tax revenues. These aren’t cuts in discretionary funding.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 2:50 pm

The reality of the times is that balancing the budget could be done with spending cuts, or with tax increases.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 4:37 pm

How many fortune 500 companies have bailed out of NYC, in part because of high taxes. Raise taxes to support the MTA and the remaining big companies here can relocate as well. Or constantly harrass people who have money and they will leave the city as well.

Benjamin Kabak February 15, 2011 - 4:39 pm

Let me turn that question around: How many Fortune 500 companies have actually bailed out of NYC? People love to use that as a claim, but it just doesn’t happen. A few have opened other offices in Jersey City but which ones have just picked up their corporate HQ and moved out? Name them.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 5:01 pm

Well, Benjamin, I believe I backed up my claims. A number of fortune 500 companies have bailed out of NYC. Do you want to raise taxes some more and drive out the remaining ones?

There’s a reason why NYC and NYS have to give huge tax incentives to the banking industry. If they don’t subsidize them, there is nothing to stop them from leaving NYC like the other companies. Well, you’d no longer have to worry about overcrowding trains, right? NY cannot raise taxes to support the MTA.

Benjamin Kabak February 15, 2011 - 5:10 pm

This is quite a threadjack: from GOP House budgets to Tea Party-esque complaints about NYC tax rates. 🙂

Anyway, I’m pretty much through with this conversation, but you’ve forgotten to consider the Fortune 500 companies that have moved into New York in the ensuing years. You’ve forgotten Google. You’ve forgotten the fact that NYC is now second to Silicon Valley for start-ups. Most of those companies you listed — if not all — moved out due to space considerations and not taxes. Linking to Wikipedia pages proves nothing.

Ultimately, New York’s taxes — which have nothing to do with this U.S. House GOP budget proposal — are way too high because of pension and health care costs. But businesses and the financial sector aren’t leaving.

(And really? IBM? They moved to Armonk in 1963. Come on.)

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 5:49 pm

Oh yes it does. My ultimate point was there is a reason politicians don’t just hand the MTA all the money they want. City and state politicians don’t want to be blamed for driving out even more big business.

Linked to wikipedia certainly proved my point, NYC has a net loss of big companies based here over the decades. Google may have an office in NYC, but it is still headquartered in California,where most of the real work is still done.

As for the federal government, well, the rest of the country could really care less than the NYC MTA doesn’t have enough money to operate. No one is going to be voted out of office in any state for the Congress cutting back MTA operational subsidies. Cutbacks are what the MTA and NYC riding public will have to deal with and they have no choice in the matter.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 6:38 pm

New York is not an exurban edge city in Tennessee. It does not need to grovel to big business to have good-paying jobs. It can afford to spend money on good health care, infrastructure, and education, and let big business take care of itself. Better-educated people would be able to start higher-value-added small businesses, which is where growth actually occurs.

Justin Samuels February 15, 2011 - 4:58 pm

American Airlines was once based in NY. Now headquartered in Texas. They just picked up and left.


UPS was once headquartered in NYC, but they picked up and moved the headquarters out.


IBM moved their headquarters from NYC to Armonk, NY


GE moved its headquarters to CT.


AT&T was once based out of NYC, but moved to NJ. The current AT&T is the former SBC which purchased AT&T. based out of Texas now.

The film industry, a lucrative industry, was once mostly based out of NYC. That is now centered in California, despite the occassional and comparatively rare NY production.


NYC has no computer or tech industry, that’s in California and notice how all of the new big tech companies, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco are California companies. The energy sector is mainly based in Texas. Long Island once made McDonnell Douglas airplanes, but the airplane manufacturing industry fled Long Island for the South and West.

The high taxes and real estate costs not only drove out existing big companies, but they prevent new major companies from starting here as the costs are simply to great.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 6:53 pm

New York does actually have a tech industry. In terms of total high-tech employment, its metro area ranks third in the country, after the Bay Area and Washington-Baltimore, and well ahead of low-tax, low-cost cities like Houston.

The film industry moved out to California in the 1910s, not over taxes but over patent enforcement. Edison could demand royalties for use of his patents in New York; his power did not extend to Los Angeles.

The oil industry is based in Texas because that’s where the oil is. And what’s not based in Texas is based in California: Chevron is based in the Bay Area.

General Electric still has massive office space in New York – that’s the 30 Rock building. Its Fairfield headquarters is mostly on paper.

IBM moved to Armonk because of nationwide hysteria over a Soviet attack; the CEO preferred a site away from a major city, and made sure to build bomb shelters both at his house in Greenwich and at the new site. Blame suburbanization and Cold War hysteria, not taxes.

American Airlines’ leaving affected 1,300 jobs, less than 0.04% of city employment. Instead of that money loser, the city now has JetBlue, a profitable company based in the city even though the founder’s origins are in Utah.

Donald February 16, 2011 - 12:27 am

McDonnell Douglas left NY because they merged with Boeing and Boeing is based in Washington State, so naturally that is where the jobs would go.

Donald February 16, 2011 - 12:31 am

The state with the highest unemployment rate in the country is low tax Nevada (14.5%).


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