Home MTA Politics NY Senate GOP votes to cut MTA capital aid

NY Senate GOP votes to cut MTA capital aid

by Benjamin Kabak

The New York State budgeting process is, by all accounts, a very, very messy one, and it’s even worse when the Senate is controlled by one party and the Assembly and Governorship controlled by the other. This year, with GOP lawmakers pushing for spending cuts and the MTA seeking money for its ongoing capital work, the debate over downstate dollars may turn sour. Yesterday, the New York State Senate, controlled by Republicans, voted to cut all capital subsidies for the MTA.

“The Senate budget resolution is right in line with our priorities to cut taxes, control spending and create jobs,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said. “I am confident that we will be able to work with the Governor and Assembly to get a new budget enacted well before the deadline that includes our priorities.”

The move, as first reported by Celeste Katz and Glenn Bain for The Daily News’ Daily Politics site, came as part of the one-chamber budget resolution. In this document [pdf], Senate Republicans voiced how they would vote on the various measures associated with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget plan. The Assembly conducts a similar vote, and the two resultant documents are used during the budget negotiation process.

Here, the MTA came out as big losers. The State Senate voted against a Cuomo proposal to appropriate $770 million to the MTA for capital projects, and they voted against a plan to increase the MTA’s bond cap by $7 billion. As The News noted, State Democrats were livid:

Not only did Senate Republicans cut $770 million in capital financing for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, they also rejected the agency’s bid for a $7 billion increase in its bonding cap — which according to Democratic Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) would jeopardize the MTA’s ability to qualify for more than $2 billion in federal financing.

“It will bring the East Side Access project to a complete halt, Second Avenue subway to a complete halt,” said Dilan, who is the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee.

Dilan also warned that the loss of funding would jeopardize the MTA’s ability to purchase new subway cars from upstate factories. “It is very irresponsible,” Dilan said. “They are putting the lives of individuals who are employed throughout the State of New York.”

Republicans, especially those of the upstate variety, claim they are seeking out information on “what specific capital projects would be funded,” but one revealed his true colors. John DeFrancisco, the Budget Committee chair from Syracuse, worried about funding levels for upstate bridges and roads. “We don’t have too many MTA trains going to Syracuse,” he said.

This is, of course, a mess. Upstaters who live off the spoils of New York City’s state-powering economy have long refused to support transit. They want money for upstate roads that do not do nearly as much for the state’s economy as the MTA does, and now they’re playing a very dangerous game with much-needed MTA funding. The authority has to secure these dollars to continue work on the Second Ave. Subway and East Side Access. To say that state lawmakers do not know what capital projects are being considered is a load of bunk.

It is easy for us in the city to shake our fists as folks like DeFrancisco and wonder why someone from Syracuse, for instance, has such an overwhelming say in what New York City needs. We are, after all, both the carrot and stick for a state that would otherwise be in dire financial straits without us. Yet, it’s worth remembering that this is just one step in the process. Cuomo seems to understand, at least begrudgingly, that the MTA needs these dollars, and Sheldon Silver, for his faults, will fight tooth and nail for it.

Right now, State Republicans in the Senate can say they voted against MTA spending before it becomes a fixture in the budget. They’ll engage in some good old fashioned horse-trading, and the money will be there. But make no mistake about it: Upstate Senators from both sides of the aisle aren’t going out of their way to do the city and its transportation network any favors, and within the five boroughs, that should be a great cause for concern.

You may also like


Alex C March 13, 2012 - 12:30 am

Create jobs by running the breadwinner’s public transport into the ground so nobody can get anywhere. Sounds reasonable.

Kevin Li March 13, 2012 - 12:47 am

Time to make New York City and its surrounding boroughs into a separate state I say.

John March 13, 2012 - 3:55 am


If they want war than so be it. I’m still smarting from the bastards nuking congestion pricing.

Justin Samuels March 13, 2012 - 4:37 am

I know a lot of people from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island who drive cars and who opposed congestion pricing. For that matter, I live in Queens and I will eventually have to get a car. Not too excited about congestion pricing.

Bronxite March 13, 2012 - 6:23 am

Most New Yorkers don’t drive. Even less commute to Manhattan via auto (Under 20%). Most New Yorkers would benefit from a reduction in traffic, and an increase in funds for mass transit. The problem of course is, will those funds go to transit?

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 11:49 am

Frankly, it’s worth it whether they do or not. Less wear and tear on roads, cheaper/better road maintenance, faster bus service – these are all general benefits.

Justin Samuels March 13, 2012 - 2:56 pm

What’s a New Yorker? Everyone I know who has at least teacher level money in the 5 boroughs drives. Not to mention all the people in the suburbs, where you generally have to drive.

I’m applying for adjunct teaching positions, and because various colleges are so scattered around the metro area, I will have to drive to work eventually (without driving, the places I could even apply to would go down tremendously).

Big parts of Queens have no ready subway access, and ditto for Staten Island and even parts of Brooklyn.

And put it like this, there are enough New Yorkers who drive to fill the roads.:)

Justin Samuels March 13, 2012 - 3:01 pm

The more funds transit gets the more they will spend. The MTA is always going to claim broke…….

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 3:05 pm

This is probably true, but you can’t attribute this to transit. You can attribute it to the awful organizational and political culture in NYS.

And it applies just as much to the DOT and just about everyone else. If anything, the MTA is just more in the open about it.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 11:48 am

Congestion pricing is a win if for drivers who value their time at anything approaching a middle class wage.

Justin Samuels March 13, 2012 - 2:57 pm

I don’t know any drivers who love tolls, and yes I know plenty of middle class drivers.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 3:03 pm

They may not love tolls, but remind them that sitting in traffic without a toll wastes more fuel, possibly more than the cost of the toll,* and wastes their time, which they should value at about their wage if they’re going to work. If they still think CP is not a win for them, there is no benign alternative: they’re either stupid or they just want to screw everyone else over to avoid a toll.

* all it takes is a gallon or two, depending what crossing you’re talking about.

Justin Samuels March 13, 2012 - 1:24 am

Congress will never approve making NYC into a separate state, in part because any major city could ask to be a separate state.

And what happened with the upstate Republican senate is part of the political process. They won’t vote for downstate MTA funding UNLESS the downstate representatives give them something in return. This is how politics are done at federal, state, county,and city levels.

BTW, the upstate New York train factories aren’t in Syracuse, so no, they don’t benefit as far as jobs go. New York State’s a decent sized state, perhaps people in New York City should learn more about the state as a whole before making judgements.

With that said, the MTA will get its capital funding eventually, once people in various upstate regions get what they want.

Adirondacker12800 March 13, 2012 - 1:56 am

Dean Skelos represents towns in Southwestern Nassau County. I think the MTA’s next round of service cuts should be to suspend service on the Far Rockaway and Long Beach Branches. See how fast Senator Skelos finds money for the MTA.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 2:12 am

Thanks for clarifying. We mighty Galtians in New York City need only to strike so those upstate moochers starve to death.

Hank March 13, 2012 - 11:02 am


SEAN March 13, 2012 - 11:46 am


Kevin Li March 13, 2012 - 5:06 pm


Alex C March 13, 2012 - 2:15 am

I think the folks in Yonkers and Plattsburgh wouldn’t be too happy with the MTA not being able to afford new buses and trains.

Alex C March 13, 2012 - 2:19 am

Also Elmira and Hornell, too. And Oriskany.

pea-jay March 13, 2012 - 8:57 am

I’m hoping that this court-overseen redistricting will reduce the republican influence in the state senate. Won’t improve the quality of state legislators in general but all things being equal the idiot dem is less harmful than an idiot repub politician.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 11:51 am

Less evil maybe, but I dunno about less harmful. It was idiot Dems who killed CP.

Al D March 13, 2012 - 9:20 am

We want to have faith in the wise old men in Albany, however, they are busy further gerrymandering districts to ensure that they are re-elected for another 10 years, and are resisting all calls for reform.

That plus MTA has never been guaranteed anything (“MTA will get its capital funding eventually”)[curiously the statement is not “The state will eventually fund the capital program”], and have had to borrow to fund the program the state would not fund or as W might have said, ‘misunderfund’ the program.

Christopher March 13, 2012 - 10:32 am

It’s too bad about Congress. All the cities should be granted state status. Or cities above a million, that would encourage consolidation and efficiency and cost benefits from less separate governments. This is what Japan has been doing since the 80s. Tokyo, Sendai, Kobe, and others have state status and some like Sendai are relatively new cities created by merging several others to reach the cap for city-states. It would be less government, of course it would also mean increase power to the constituents that rural and suburban Republicans don’t want to have anymore power.

SEAN March 13, 2012 - 11:44 am

I agree. Since the NYC area would benefit by being it’s own state. After all 12-million of the 20-million residents live in the NYC region, there for the political power belongs here not Syracuse, Rocheester or Buffalo.

Nyland8 March 13, 2012 - 8:30 pm

I don’t think the founding fathers could have ever dreamed how under-represented our major cities have become. Brooklyn alone has more population than the five least populated states -COMBINED!!! That’s 10 Senators in D.C. against … what? A small part of one?

Is it any wonder things are as they are?

Billy G March 13, 2012 - 2:13 am

How about the MTA make up for the shortfall with user fees? You know, make the users of the system actually pay, instead of some schlub up in Syracuse?

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 2:17 am

How by any stretch of the most deluded teabagger’s imagination does anybody in or near Syracuse lend a nickle to subsidizing NYC Transit? If anything, it’s completely the other way around.

Justin Samuels March 13, 2012 - 4:40 am

I’ve been reading how public transportation in Hong Kong is actually profitable.

How is that? Well, they charge fares based on the distance one travels, like commuter railroads do in the US.

Weekly and monthly metrocards are WAY below the actual cost of riding the train, and what NYC transit passengers pay is nothing compared to what drivers of cars pay nationwide, or what people who ride commuter railroads in Long Island, CT, Westchester, and NJ pay.

Alon Levy March 13, 2012 - 5:22 am

First, NYCT has better farebox recovery than the LIRR. It’s about even with Metro-North. Those commuter railroads charge a lot of money, but they’re run so inefficiently that fares are a small percentage of expenses.

Second, Hong Kong has charged cars for the scarce space they use and the pollution they emit, depressing car ownership (total number of vehicles per capita is half that of Manhattan). That’s where its high transit ridership comes from. This transit ridership then leads to higher revenue, and thus profit. If I’m understanding this statement correctly, then the average fare per rail passenger trip is HK$7.50, i.e. US$1.

Larry Littlefield March 13, 2012 - 8:32 am

“First, NYCT has better farebox recovery than the LIRR. It’s about even with Metro-North.”

The subway covers vastly more of its costs than Metro North.

It is the buses that do not, probably because they run empty or near empty much of the time. I’ll bet some of the buses cover most of their costs too.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 11:55 am

Maybe not from the farebox recovery perspective. MNRR probably has significantly lower capital expenses right now though (no SAS or 7 ext or Fulton Transit Center).

Larry Littlefield March 13, 2012 - 12:28 pm

That just means MetroNorth had more capital to start with. Hopefully they’ll get MetroNorth to Penn.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 12:52 pm

No, it means MNRR had lower capital expenses than NYCTA.* Capital expenses necessarily balloon when a huge new piece of infrastructure is created.

* I don’t even know if that’s true, but it’s one possible explanation. I’m too lazy to confirm.

Al D March 13, 2012 - 1:21 pm

So that means then that capital $ is in the agency (in this case NYCT) budget, and the agency is therefore responsible for it, however MTAHQ via MTACC manages it on behalf of the agency? Sounds like NYCT is getting the short end here, all the fiduciary responsibility, no project say…

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 1:51 pm

It doesn’t mean any of that, and I have no idea. I think this is just vanilla accrual accounting for the most part – not really anything a public company doesn’t have to do when it releases its financial reports. I believe MTA Capital Construction handles capital construction, regardless of what sub-agency is going to own/benefit from/use the infrastructure – and it may be more than one. Nothing is really wrong with any of that, in theory.

All I know is, somehow somebody somewhere attributes these costs and revenues to operations (e.g., running trains and buses) and capital projects (e.g., new equipment, stations, tracks, tunnels, etc.) of respective agencies. The latter is amortized over time. And it all gets reported to the feds, who publish it on NTD.

Railroads and transit agencies do have a bit of their own jargon.* Either way, I think the feds demand accrual accounting of local government agencies before they’ll even disburse funds (rightly so), even if they don’t feel the need to keep their own books so neatly. :-p

* e.g., farebox operating ratio: F/OC
farebox recovery ratio: F/[OC+DE], I think
where F = fare revenue, OC = operational cost, and DE = a yearly depreciation expense.

Alex C March 13, 2012 - 11:53 am

Distance-based subway fares would make the much lower income areas like the South Bronx and Brownsville, Brooklyn pay a higher fare going to Manhattan than the Upper East Side.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 12:02 pm

I don’t really object to reforming the MTA’s pricing structure, as long as it’s done fairly. I was asking how a Syracuse resident pays for the MTA.

Weekly and monthly metrocards are WAY below the actual cost of riding the train,

Well, that’s relative. On a percentage basis, subway cost recovery is better than national highway cost recovery. I have no idea about local roads, but I wouldn’t confidently say they’re cash cows financially.

and what NYC transit passengers pay is nothing compared to what drivers of cars pay nationwide, or what people who ride commuter railroads in Long Island, CT, Westchester, and NJ pay.

Well, no shit. The subway is cheaper than private cars to operate and enjoys better economies of scale (more people over shorter distances) than suburban railroads. NYC Subway riders shouldn’t be paying more because people who make costlier trips pay more.

It still doesn’t mean anyone in Syracuse pays for the MTA, as Billy G asserted.

Alon Levy March 13, 2012 - 8:26 pm

The headline numbers for “national highway cost recovery” compare all gas tax and toll receipts to all spending on gas tax-eligible roads. So, all the money generated by local roads has already been used to improve the performance of the Interstates and state roads, and the remaining local road farebox recovery is zero.

Just because there aren’t unionized bus drivers around doesn’t mean the roads aren’t subsidy hogs.

Bolwerk March 14, 2012 - 12:15 am

Absolutely, but you can’t really ignore fines either. Also, I didn’t mean local as in local roads on a national scale, just in the NYC area.

Alon Levy March 14, 2012 - 1:16 am

Well, strictly speaking all the road money in the state and city goes to the state roads and the bridges and tunnels. Of course it’s generated by driving on local roads…

Bolwerk March 14, 2012 - 10:44 am

You mean gas tax revenue?

Tolls presumably go to the respective tolling agency, and I think NYC’s finance department handles at least non-moving fines.

Alon Levy March 16, 2012 - 1:55 am

Gas tax revenues and tolls. The tolls are collected at the bridges and tunnels, and go toward funds that, if spent on roads, only go to bridges, tunnels, the Thruway, etc. Some money gets diverted to the subway. Meanwhile, all other roads are funded by local taxes. Because of this money shuffle, the road warriors get to claim that the roads are a net contributor to the public funds, when they aren’t.

Bolwerk March 16, 2012 - 12:55 pm

Yes, I’m familiar with the finances. I’ve been watching these debates periodically erupt on usenet for at least the past decade.

The rather hilarious part is the people who think roads pay for themselves tend be uber-Randian types who think almost everything should be privatized. Of course, they imagine themselves to be geniuses in the fields of finance and economics, but then can’t distinguish simple concepts like the difference between a cash flow and revenue.

Chris March 14, 2012 - 4:55 pm

It’s easy to net things out mentally but the reality is that both payments are actually taking place. Upstate voters ARE paying for the MTA while downstate voters are paying for roads upstate and in general all this money is unavoidably commingled in a way that makes it hard to say what’s paying for what. So it’s perfectly logical for voters upstate to complain about MTA funding and propose cutting it to save themselves money while putting the burden on users. It would be also be logical for city politicians and voters to complain about road spending upstate, but for many reasons they do not.

Bolwerk March 16, 2012 - 1:13 pm

No, it’s not logical. All that matters in the “who pays for what” fap war is who has a net inflow of funds, who has a net outflow, and where it goes. When they “propose cutting it to save themselves money,” what they’re really proposing is saying we in the city shouldn’t get some of our own money back. It’s not logical, it’s simply greedy.

Alex March 13, 2012 - 2:30 am

NYC carries the rest of the state on our backs. We subsidize THEIR roads and bridges and just about everything else. The myth that transit riders don’t pay their fair share is based on the completely naive notion that roads aren’t subsidized. They are. Heavily. As is the cost of gas.

JB March 13, 2012 - 9:48 am

This ^

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines March 13, 2012 - 8:57 am

[…] State Senate Votes to Axe MTA Capital Funds (Daily Politics, 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Tsuyoshi March 13, 2012 - 9:48 am

Sadly, I don’t at all expect the Democrats to come up with a budget that eliminates highway funding. Not that I actually want them to eliminate it all, but it would give them a better negotiating position.

But you know what this really shows? New York State is too liberal for the Republicans to make out minorities or nonprocreative sex as the bogeyman, as the national Republicans do. Instead, they’ve decided that their enemy will be the MTA.

It works out well for them, because it splits the Democrats. Many of the Democrats in the legislature are at best ambivalent on transit funding. We can expect some sort of MTA funding cut in the budget. It probably won’t come from MNR or LIRR, though, because if the Democrats are to have any hope of taking the Senate, they need to win seats in the NYC suburbs.

Hank March 13, 2012 - 10:58 am

This is your friendly reminder that Republicans hate America and its people generally and NYC and New Yorkers in particular. As craven as the Dems can be, they would never call us “elites” because we can’t afford cars and ride the subway. Not to say that there are not some good Republicans (2x Bloomberg voter here), but most of them are, at best, naked creatures of selfish-interest lacking any vision or concern for the general welfare.

Chet March 13, 2012 - 11:12 am

Well said.

SEAN March 13, 2012 - 11:50 am


Today’s Headlines | Body Local NYC March 13, 2012 - 11:52 am

[…] State Senate Votes to Axe MTA Capital Funds (Daily Politics, 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Lhota: Senate budget shows wavering state commitment to transit :: Second Ave. Sagas March 14, 2012 - 1:53 pm

[…] on the heels of yesterday’s dismaying news concerning the GOP-lead State Senate budget resolution that withdrew state support of the MTA capital fund, authority Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota struck […]


Leave a Comment