Home MTA Economics Cuomo seals the deal for a $30 million transit raid

Cuomo seals the deal for a $30 million transit raid

by Benjamin Kabak

For a little while, it appeared as though Albany would stop Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest raid on transit funding, but when the budgetary dust settled this past week, the status quo remained unchanged. Despite an initial plan to grab $40 million that didn’t pass the New York State Assembly or Senate, state legislators ultimately accepted a budget that diverted $30 million in transit funding the state had previously agreed to issue. With fare hikes on tap for 2015 (and every two years after that), the diversion is a stark reminder of the way Albany treats New York City’s transit riders.

“The sacrifice of dedicated transit funds will mean less money available to provide subway, bus, Metro-North and Long Island Railroad service. Taking away transit funding at the state level has a direct impact on levels of service, which still have not been restored to 2010 levels, and on fares, which continue to rise every other year,” a group of advocates including the Straphangers Campaign, the Riders Alliance and TSTC said in a release this weekend. “Sadly, our elected leaders have sent a clear message that the State can—and will—use the MTA as a piggy bank, siphoning dollars out of the pockets of transit riders.”

What made this year’s raid a bit more galling were words from MTA Chair Tom Prendergast essentially supporting it. I don’t expect Prendergast, who sits atop the MTA at the pleasure of the governor, to speak out forcefully against the actions of his boss, but the MTA seems more resigned to this budgetary fate than we’d like. “Our needs are being met,” Prendergast said to The Daily News. “It’s as simple as that.”

Even as the MTA says its needs are being met, though, are the needs of the riders being met? The $30 million, as many have pointed out, won’t lead to massive service cuts or an increase in the planned fare hike, but it’s money the MTA doesn’t have to invest in service or debt payments. It’s money the MTA doesn’t have when the budget inevitably takes a nose dive in a few years. It’s money the riders won’t see re-invested in a system that could use every dollar it can find.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Cuomo repeatedly reject efforts to make transit raids more transparent as he has vetoed a lockbox that would require impact statements when funds are diverted. He’s taken the credit for good MTA news and none of the blame for the bad. So this latest raid isn’t shocking. Yet, it’s still a reminder that transit riders, even as they fill the system in record-setting numbers, are the ones left holding the short straw year after year once the budgetary dust settles.

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30 comments

LLQBTT March 31, 2014 - 1:12 pm

If Prendergast feels he has plenty, then why a fare increase? Surely, there’ll still be plenty in 2015. Maybe in 2015, Prince Cuomo will lower tolls on the Tap courtesy of another MTA raid or fund his property tax decrease courtesy of the MTA.

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Nathanael March 31, 2014 - 1:16 pm

I repeat: who is running for Governor as a Democrat? Because Cuomo obviously isn’t.

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Bolwerk March 31, 2014 - 1:46 pm

Yes he is. Democrats, who were always small-R republicans anyway, have become the new Rockefeller/Eisenhower Republicans. The former Republican Party became the Republikans, a delusional and reactionary party with a revolutionary bent more at him in 1930s Europe than 21st century, well, anywhere.

However, I think Paterson should not have given up. He probably could have beaten Paladino easily. And Paterson actually had most of Cuomos positives (e.g., gay marriage) with few of the more glaring negatives. Hell, Paterson was probably less authoritarian in general.

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ac March 31, 2014 - 2:49 pm

Wasn’t he a little too close to his former colleagues in the senate like Malcolm Smith to be able to run anything effectively ?

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Bolwerk March 31, 2014 - 3:37 pm

He was a wretchedly ineffective politician. Though I think he was actually fairly cordial with the GOP.

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Nathanael April 1, 2014 - 5:13 am

Rockefeller and Eisenhower supported large investments in infrastructure, maintenance of existing infrastructure, and high taxes on the rich.

Nope, sorry, Cuomo isn’t in that tradition. Cuomo’s way off on the “cut taxes for rich people, to hell with infrastructure” side on economic issues. He’s more of a Reagan Republican.

I’d actually vote for a Rockefeller or an Eisenhower. I won’t vote for a Reaganite.

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Alon Levy April 1, 2014 - 5:35 am

I don’t know, I think Reagan was better than someone who engaged in ethnic cleansing.

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LLQBTT April 1, 2014 - 8:55 am

Thanks for the link. 70 years later and a humane solution still evades us.

Nathanael April 2, 2014 - 12:57 pm

Reagan ran similar operations.

Bolwerk April 1, 2014 - 11:21 am

Actually, you reminded me the parallel is better than first occurred to me. Rocky and Ike wanted the wrong infrastructure. Cuomo wants to invest in the wrong infrastructure too. Rocky and Ike were liberals, and Cuomo following decades later is a conservative.

Okay, Rocky played lip service to transit investment, but never actually offered any. But he did give us the rigid public authority structure we have today.

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Nathanael April 2, 2014 - 12:58 pm

You have a point there — wanting to invest in the wrong infrastructure.

Doing so 50 years later is just stupid though. I can forgive the auto-futurists of the 1950s. I can’t forgive auto-futurists of today.

Spendmor Wastemor March 31, 2014 - 8:58 pm

He’s a Modern Democrat: rules are for thee, not for me.

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LLQBTT April 1, 2014 - 8:56 am

I hate all this pandering to the upstate community. It’s ridiculous.

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Nathanael April 2, 2014 - 1:01 pm

It isn’t even pandering to upstate. Upstate Democrats HATE Cuomo. Largely because he spoiled our chances of getting the Republicans out of the State Senate, by basically betraying the party.

He also keeps refusing to commit regarding fracking, which we HAVE to keep out of upstate NY — this is the most important issue in upstate, because so many people depend on wells for water, including specialty agriculture. Fracking would actually destroy upstate permanently, the way it’s destroyed parts of western Pennsylvania.

Cuomo is not pandering to upstate.

Cuomo is pandering to *Republicans*. I consider it unforgiveable.

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Bolwerk April 1, 2014 - 11:47 am

That’s more Bush-Obama than Cuomo. Cuomo seems to actually at least believe in following his own rules, he just tilts them in his favor. He thinks he’s better than the smelly plebes who ride transit too.

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Alex C March 31, 2014 - 9:10 pm

Nobody would dare challenge him. He has the Cuomo name and all the big donors lined up behind him. Like with George Bush, he’s a product of nepotism and just as incompetent.

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Nathanael April 1, 2014 - 5:14 am

So let’s challenge him. Do I seriously have to run myself?

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Brandon March 31, 2014 - 2:18 pm

1. This is an illegal differential tax rate being applied only to the downstate counties and then shifted into the general fund.

2. Prendergast is pretty desperate to suck up to Cuomo eh? Yeah, we’ve got plenty of money, move along, nothing to see here!

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lawhawk March 31, 2014 - 2:21 pm

The budget shell game continues apace in Albany. The MTA gets raided to help Cuomo balance the budget, and the MTA can’t do much about it with its leadership beholden to Cuomo for their very jobs.

Sure, Pendergast says the agency will make due with less money, but what about the riders? Are they really making due? That’s money that could have gone to service increases in any number of places in the system, or it could have gone to debt payments to reduce the overall crushing debt burden that the MTA is carrying.

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John-2 March 31, 2014 - 2:41 pm

Cuomo needed to come up with budget offsets to co-opt de Blasio with his $300 million deal for pre-K programs. So the MTA budget’s shouldering 13.3 percent of that expenditure (I supposed if the MTA now put 13.3 percent of those pre-K classrooms on subway cars, they could sort of get their money back…)

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Rob March 31, 2014 - 3:31 pm

question: would the $ be “re-invested in a system that could use every dollar it can find”, or end up with the unions that take every dollar they can?

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EgoTripExpress March 31, 2014 - 4:42 pm

“I don’t expect Prendergast, who sits atop the MTA at the pleasure of the governor, to speak out forcefully against the actions of his boss”

Anyone else hope Cuomo get’s his own ‘Bridgegate’? This smells fishy.

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SEAN March 31, 2014 - 5:02 pm

Sounds like another Tesla to me. For those who don’t know, a bill was signed into law in New Jersey that prevents Tesla from selling it’s cars there & a similar bill is pending in New York. Technicly this is illegal since the law applies to Tesla specificly.

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Larry Littlefield March 31, 2014 - 5:21 pm

“Our needs are being met.”

The needs are $4.4 billion per year for ongoing normal replacement, starting next year. In cash, without borrowing. Minus whatever can be taken back from the inflated costs of the contractors.

If Cuomo arranges that, fine. He’s put in a little money thus far. The city has put in none. The only organization that has put in money consistently has been the federal government.

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SEAN March 31, 2014 - 6:13 pm

If only the money spent on the war machine was spent on more useful things like better education, urban revitalisation & rapid transit expantion. Oh well, I guess reality really does bite.

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Alex C March 31, 2014 - 9:09 pm

Is there a more disappointing “Democrat” in America than Cuomo? I mean Obama has his faults, but Cuomo is straight up Republican without the homophobia.

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Nathanael April 1, 2014 - 5:17 am

There are the five State Senate “Democrats” (in name only) who decided to vote to give the Republican Party control of the State Senate. They’re slightly more disappointing than Cuomo.

Cuomo is supporting those jackasses. The local Democratic Party organizers are, frankly, steamed at these shenanigans; they don’t work their ass off in order to give power to the Republicans.

I believe this is actually Cuomo’s weak point: he’s such an obvious traitor to the party that he’s really angered a lot of the party machine.

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lawhawk April 1, 2014 - 9:15 am

Cuomo is exploiting that division to divide and conquer in the backrooms in Albany. That’s how Cuomo gets his way. He’s coopted the Senate, leaving the Assembly more isolated – and the Assembly’s Silver is just as wretched as one should expect from someone who has condoned sexual harassment suits for years on end and done nothing to clean up his caucus (because that mess has allowed him to divide and conquer his own caucus to avoid anyone rising through the ranks to challenge him). It’s for personal power, not the greater good.

And in that respect, Cuomo and Silver are kindred spirits. They both see something to gain from the other’s situation, and nothing they’ve done/proposed actually will benefit transit riders.

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Nathanael April 2, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Silver is in a much more secure position than Cuomo. He does his best to avoid making too many enemies. But I think when he eventually retires or dies, his replacement is not going to be able to pull the same shit.

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Juan Carlos Contreras March 31, 2014 - 10:03 pm

What a major disappointment. More steps back for New York.

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