Once more unto the Paterson breachBy
At the risk of sounding like Captain Ahab as he pursued his elusive whale, allow me to opine tonight on David Paterson’s appointment to the MTA. I realize I’ve already questioned his credentials, but with the advocacy groups praising his appointment, someone has to cast a critical eye on this move. I firmly believe it was not a wise one for the MTA.
This morning’s clip comes to us via Fox 5. New York’s former governor sat down with the Good Day New York hosts yesterday to talk about his upcoming role on the MTA Board. Take a gander if you have a few minutes:
For those who want to get right to the meaty part, here’s what Paterson had to say when the Fox hosts asked him about his pending appointment to the MTA Board:
You have to be confirmed by the Senate, and it’s kind of ironic because about ten years because myself and another State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who’s now our attorney general, we actually we were in an action suing the MTA because at the time the MTA had two separate sets of books, one for the public and one for their internal practices and it created a lot of mistrust with the public. What we’re trying to do now is establish the kind of policies that the people of New York could be proud of.
The emphasis clearly is mine, and his statements are more than a bit dismaying. When it comes to recent political history in New York State, the MTA has simply been unable to shake this image of having two sets of books. Despite releasing more budget data than any other state authority and making all of this information available online to the public, New Yorkers are stuck with this ten-year-old image of two sets of books. It was, as I’ve mentioned before, a claim discredited in the state’s highest court and one put forward by a comptroller who ended up in jail on corruption charges.
For the past few years, whenever any politician has cast a wary eye on the MTA, the claim of two sets of books has arisen to the forefront. Yet, it’s a claim with no foundation in established fact. The MTA hasn’t been very good — or even adequate — at spending money efficiently, but it’s been willing to show exactly how it’s spending (or, as some may say, wasting) money. It doesn’t keep two sets of books, and perpetuating this myth does nothing but harm the cause of transit in New York State.
Paterson went on a popular television show and put forward this theory as though it were fact. He also admitted that he did not know how long his MTA Board appointment would be, and he again assailed the payroll tax that he himself saw through Albany. “At one point we had to tax businesses along the MTA corridor a whole lot more than they deserved to pay. Fortunately, this new governor has put an end to that. But at the time we had to close a $20 billion deficit,” he said. That $20 billion isn’t quite accurate either as the payroll tax was designed to close the MTA’s operating budget gap and not its capital funding hole.
At this point, it’s awfully hard to take Paterson seriously as an MTA Board member. Luckily, he’ll be one of 22, and so he won’t be in a position to cause much damage. But let’s not kid ourselves: He’s as qualified to sit on the MTA Board as he was to serve as this state’s governor for two years.