No one ever expected Andrew Cuomo to be, as governor, a particularly strong advocate for transit. After all, this is a politician who is known more for his muscle cars than anything else. Lately, though, he’s let the top spot at the MTA remain empty for the past 38 days, and, oh, his budget has reappropriated — or stolen — $20 million in funding from the agency as well.
“The Budget will use surplus mass transportation operating assistance funds to pay for a portion of the debt service associated with previously issued MTA service contract bonds. (2013-14 Value: $20 million; 2014-15 Value: $0).”
In yesterday’s post, she elaborates:
This $20 million diversion of funds comes from a pot of money that is statutorily dedicated to cover the operating needs of the MTA. The Executive Budget, however, declared that this $20 million diversion is “surplus,” but there is no explanation of how funds are determined to be surplus. Because of increases in revenues from taxes dedicated to the MTA, the MTA did receive a 7.4 percent increase in the executive budget over last year’s budget. But given the volatility of the economy over the last few years, these days it is hard to say that anything is “surplus.”
Streetsblog lays clear how this sweep is working: “What the budget summary doesn’t say is that the state’s general fund would have paid this $20 million if the administration hadn’t stepped in and diverted the MTA’s $20 million. How transparent!” Streetsblog also notes that while the lockbox would not necessarily have blocked this raid, it would have forced Cuomo to explain the why and how of it. As it stands, the administration can put forward whatever nonsense it wants as an explanation.
The MTA hasn’t yet acknowledged this cut and has yet to say how it will otherwise find the $20 million. The service restorations planned for 2013 add up to around $29 million, but there are no plans to scale back on these increases. Meanwhile, fares are going up in less than a month, and readers will be expected to shoulder even more of the burden as the state has once again stolen from the MTA and its paying customers. But, hey, at least the roads are paved.