Home MTA Politics Cuomo: We ‘need a total overhaul of the MTA’

Cuomo: We ‘need a total overhaul of the MTA’

by Benjamin Kabak

Barring a monumental upset, Andrew Cuomo, a native of Queens and a son of New York City, will be the state’s next governor, and he will be the second consecutive New York City Democratic to hold that spot. As such, the transit-minded among us might believe that Cuomo would have a good idea or a least a plan for the MTA. Yet, much like his opponent GOP candidate Carl Paladino, who wants to dismantle the MTA, Cuomo’s campaign has been light on substance and higher on the rhetoric.

Speaking to a reporter from The Observer after a rally last week, Cuomo issued a brief statement on the MTA. He said:

“I think you need a total overhaul of the MTA. You have to revisit the payroll tax. We’re going to have to figure out ways to make it more efficient and more economical, because we just can’t afford this anymore.”

For Cuomo, this is the first time he has gone on record to opine on matters relating to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. His 252-page Plan for Action for New York State mentions the MTA just twice, and nothing Cuomo says lends the belief that the Democratic nominee understands the MTA’s financial crisis and why it is of vital importance to the region to solve it. His comments last week aren’t comforting either.

On the one hand, Cuomo isn’t wrong. The MTA must be more efficient and economical because we the state of New York and we the city of New York can’t afford it. We can’t afford to see transit fail, and we can’t afford to pump billions into a system that bleeds money. That is a foregone conclusion.

Yet, Cuomo’s belief that the MTA needs a total overhaul seems misguided. To me, a total overhaul suggests removing the people in charge and replacing them with someone else. Yet, right now, Jay Walder, the MTA CEO and Chair, just one year into the job, should not be dismissed. Handed a sinking ship, Walder has tried to right it by cutting $730 million from its annual budget and bringing technological innovations to the system at the same time. He’s making headway with cost savings and with modernization while trying to work, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, with the various labor unions that make up the MTA’s workforce. As the third Chair in four years, Walder should be allowed to ride out this storm and see the job through.

The final part of Cuomo’s statement — revisiting the payroll tax — should leave transit supporters wary as well. The payroll tax wasn’t an ideal solution, and it’s left suburban counties both disgruntled and looking for legal recourse. But the man in charge in Albany must support it. Right now, the MTA is relying on the payroll tax for $1.5 billion next year and nearly $2 billion annually by 2015. If Cuomo is going to reevaluate the payroll tax, he must find a way to replace that money in the MTA’s budget or else the authority will fail.

Cuomo might be right; the MTA needs an overhaul. But it shouldn’t be one that cuts of the MTA’s nose just to spite its face.

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Alon Levy October 11, 2010 - 3:40 pm

This yawn-fest isn’t helping my sleep schedule problems.

Benjamin Kabak October 11, 2010 - 3:41 pm

What a horrendously uninspiring race for governor. Considering how screwed New York is, you’d think the parties could find two candidates with real plans, eh?

Alon Levy October 11, 2010 - 3:45 pm

It would be a sign of the apocalypse if they did.

Sharon October 11, 2010 - 4:10 pm

Does this mean he is going to stand up to the labor unions. They along with a restructuring of management and the deployment of technology at every level is what is needed.

The unions cost the MTA over $1 billion in unneeded spending each year. I am not talking about reducing benefits either but rather work rules that pad the payroll.

Keeping Walder would be the first step.

But Cuomo is all about lip service. I would vote Paladino only because the DEMS need a wake up call. Although he has old fashion views on many social issues.

Benjamin Kabak October 11, 2010 - 4:12 pm

I would vote Paladino only because the DEMS need a wake up call.

I try not get too partisan around here, but considering what Paladino is saying and what he says he would do, this is absolutely the wrong election to start voting to send a wake-up call. Gov. Paladino would be the end of a lot of important institutions in New York.

Red October 11, 2010 - 4:25 pm

Yeah, keep in mind that Paladino has said he will fire Walder.

Sharon October 11, 2010 - 10:31 pm

Walder is a goner as soon as Cuomo gets in as a favor to his union backers.

Take a look at who Cuomo has gone after in his current role. He has left the unions alone.

The State and city unions salaries and benefits are out sized as compared to the private sector (what remains of it). Someone needs to stand up to the union leadership to save the Union worker from their leadership. Pension reform is needed and I’d prefer keeping the pension systems professionally managed options but you can not have no employee contribution and pension payout based on the last few years salary as opposed to average salary. In the case of a NYC teacher, starting salary is about $45k (less than a cleaner at the mta fyi and teachers have college loans to pay back) but top pay after 22 years is $103,000 before overtime padding. there are tier 1 teachers that are walking away with $100k plus pension when their mean salary was around $50k .
Right now state law is stacked against any local gov from negotiating a fair contract with the unions. the unions won’t negotiate fair and it gets sent to an arbitrator which always sides with the unions OR their is a provision that a union can get a % above the contract of a similar title in another part of the state

nycpat October 12, 2010 - 12:57 am

The last tier 1 person was hired when? 1974? 1975?

Sharon October 12, 2010 - 9:06 pm

there are still a few in the system. The UFT is one of the few union that created a new pension tier about year ago. Teachers now work 27/57 with contributions throughout. Already in the system, it was 30/60 but a 25/55 option was put in for an extra 2% contribution but it allowed those already 55 to pay $2k and they were able to leave

Bolwerk October 12, 2010 - 5:38 pm

I doubt it. It would probably just be four years of total gridlock, perhaps not even so different from electing Cuomo or Pataki. However, it takes a certain level of malignancy and hostility towards the needs of just about anyone to be conscious of Republikan behavior and still vote for one.

The people who need to be reigned in are stuffed suits like Sheldon Silver. Calling him the Anti-Christ might be a stretch, but the guy is an obstinate dick.

Hell, Paladino provides a public service, reminding everyone of the Republikan fetish for degrading women by sharing photos of them having sex with horses!

Scott E October 11, 2010 - 4:42 pm

I think Cuomo’s quote is right on the money (no pun intended). He’s saying we need to fix the MTA, so that it can operate effectively and efficiently. Whether that means replacing its leadership is just an interpretation. Contrast this to prior administrations who, rather than look for a fix, have simply punished the MTA by pulling back funds and forcing the agency to fend for itself.

Alon Levy October 11, 2010 - 5:02 pm

The keyword of your comment is “saying.” Politicians say positive things to get elected, without ever doing anything after they win. Remember Bloomberg’s free crosstown buses?

Sharon October 11, 2010 - 10:40 pm

I want specifics. Cuomo is just giving lip service

His ads tout NO NEW TAXES but for the state to thrive we must drastically CUT taxes and unneeded services.

He pledges to increase the state budget at the rate of inflation. Well that means raises each year for the unions (which I am a member of one FYI) .

Read the article in todays NY times about the number of jobs created in the movie industry in queens when the state granted a 30% reduction in taxes. The added employment more than makes up for the loss of tax dollars in the increase in overall business activity and the reduction of state provided services for the poor. If you are working you are less likely to be on medicaid .

Companies across the country would love to have a NYC address. What stops them the taxes which leads to increased rents and expenses. NY is a natural for a call center with dozens of languages spoken but almost all have moved with national grid wanting to move theirs out of state as well.
A large part of the problem is that every state construction project must be built using the near highest in the nation union construction rates. It cost 2 to 3 times as much to build a mile of road in NYS as in the rest of the country including upstate NY where the cost of living is way CHEAP

Although Paladino’s comments are crude and uncensored, he represents someone who knows the pay to play culture and I would hope he would bring light to the issues. He has not.

AK October 12, 2010 - 10:08 am

The tax break for film is by no means an economic panacea. Indeed, there is a signficant amount of evidence suggesting that such subsidies do not work (see http://www.mackinac.org/12495 for one example).

Sharon October 12, 2010 - 9:11 pm

A across the board reduction in business taxes and relaxing regulations to create a BALANCE between labor and business. In the case of the movie industry, cost is a big factor. Their are plenty of case studies done by liberal groups and conservative groups that distort the facts.

At the end of the Day people working is better than people not working. It goes way beyond the paycheck, it has to do with people feeling good and being productive. We need trade jobs for people who college is not for them or not capable of college

Anon October 11, 2010 - 6:02 pm

This is why South Park is an important show

Bolwerk October 12, 2010 - 5:39 pm

South Park is reactionary.

Anon October 12, 2010 - 6:54 pm Reply
Ray October 11, 2010 - 7:16 pm

Given performance to date, I’d find it surprising if Andrew Cuomo believed Walder and his team are part of the problem. There’s a lot left to do. Walder is going to need the Gov’s office cover to get the big moves done.

BrooklynBus October 11, 2010 - 8:45 pm

What worries me are Cuomo’s TV commercials. They seriously make me think of not voting for him. He claims to have a “plan.” That plan is to cut all public authorities by 20%. What kind of plan is that? He will reduce MTA Funding by another 20%? Does he think that will make the MTA more efficient? It won’t. The MTA will just cut service by another 20% which truly would be devastating and will destroy the system. So we have all these taxes supposedly dedicated to the MTA, and he will spend that money elsewhere?

At least when Obama was running for President, he said that he would review all government programs and cut the ones that aren’t working and increase funding for the ones that do work. That makes sense on some level. Cuomo’s 20% comment makes no sense at all.

Sharon October 11, 2010 - 10:48 pm

If you go to his website you can read the plan. When he talking about cutting public authorities by 20% he is talking about the many public authorities for which their purpose is no longer needed and who are staffed by political supporters and are used to allow the state to borrow money off balance sheet(the state has a cap on the amount it can borrow. Technically money borrowed by a public authority is not included in this number)

One example is the lower Manhattan development authority. It is not giving out it’s final dollars to keep the doors open. their are dozens of such authorities statewide that have no function yet have staff and are used to balance the budget.

why do we need the battery park city authority or the roosevelt island authority? Both function of redevelopment are done yet they still exist. Int he case of the Battery Park City Authority, they assess a few on all tenants to maintain the property. The state issues bonds a few years back to balance NYS budget which will be paid off with the excess fees. That means 6% of the money goes to pay interest instead of providing service or lowering the cost of living and having a business there

BrooklynBus October 11, 2010 - 11:27 pm

Thanks for explaining.

Sharon October 12, 2010 - 9:14 pm

The public authorities law is one of the major issues. The state owes far more than what is on the books. Nobody really knows how much It allow Albany to use accounting tricks to paper over budget deficits and justify increasing service to favored groups .

Al D October 16, 2010 - 1:37 pm

Perhaps it is the state then, and not the MTA that is keeping 2 sets of books!

JebO October 12, 2010 - 8:40 am

he will be the second consecutive New York City Democratic to hold that spot

Actually, he’d be the third, by my count. Spitzer. Paterson. Cuomo.

chemster October 12, 2010 - 10:31 am

so change it to “second consecutive elected New York City Democrat to hold that spot”. I think that’s what was meant.


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