Home MTA Economics Cuomo budget steals $20 million from the MTA

Cuomo budget steals $20 million from the MTA

by Benjamin Kabak

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 report on the theft comes to us via TSTC. In an early report, Lemmon raised questions concerning the following line item:

“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.

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Patrick February 7, 2013 - 10:08 am

Who’s the dumbass that thinks that NY 27 & NY 440 switched boroughs

Someone February 7, 2013 - 10:41 am

-Prospect Expressway (Route 27) from the Gowanus Expressway to Church Avenue in Richmond County

-West Shore Expressway (Route 440) from Rossville Avenue to the Staten Island Expressway in Kings County

Honestly, I don’t know how they could have messed that up.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:18 pm

The West Shore Expressway is about 8 feet wide. I could repave that over an afternoon using a caulking gun.

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 11:57 am

George Pataki is beaming with pride. Must be nice for him to see another NY governor continue his work. Disgusting.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:04 pm

I knew it was Pataki’s fault. I wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling, and once I saw that comment I just knew that the last statewide Republican officeholder was up to his eyeballs on this chicanery. I have a feeling he’ll be responsible for lots of bad things as the years unfold.

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 1:22 pm

I see you had a canned response typed up and didn’t actually read my post. Sigh. Regardless, Pataki started this proud NY Governor tradition of robbing the MTA, and I’m sure he’s a big fan of Cuomo for doing the same.

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:13 pm

Eric F has mastered the art of meta-irony. It’s a matter of historical fact that the last statewide Republikan officeholder gave away the farm. Then, Republikans usually give away the farm. The myth of Republikan fiscal acuity (much less responsibility) is bizarrely resilient given that it has literally almost never been reflected in outcomes.

The petty, corrupt, mealy(, conservative) Democratic Party quite literally has one useful function that kept it from becoming entirely vestigial in the two-party duopoly: to fix Republikan budgets, and then get blamed for the problems surrounding them.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:15 pm

I had a “canned” response? I’m not the one who brought up a guy who hasn’t been governor in eons and was hardly governor when he was governor. This reminds me of how every problem in NJ was “Whitman!” until the day of Christie’s inauguration.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:22 pm

What farm? Who got the farm? Where is the farm? Why do you use Ks instead of Cs?

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:41 pm

I just can’t believe you’re this intractably stupid. It’s not possible. You can’t think of how decisions made 10-15 years ago might have consequences today? You think Alex C just made up the notion that Pataki’s diversions of MTA revenue and borrow and spend policies are the reason for the MTA’s high debt service costs today?

Yes, you had a canned response. It’s the same response you always have when confronted with a reality that contradicts your ideological hangups. You can’t think of ways to defend Pataki’s behavior, which in your mind is the exclusive province of librul Demoncrats, so you try to deflect it with sarcasm that implies the person criticizing him has a partisan grudge.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 3:26 pm

Can you pinpoint the Pataki decsion that caused Cuomo to move the $20 million? This is like a bad version of Looper.

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 3:55 pm

I didn’t say any Pataki decision caused Cuomo to do anything, and neither did Alex C. I don’t want to speak for Alex C, but all he did was compare Cuomo’s bad behavior to Pataki’s.

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 4:01 pm

You keep literally making posts up. You keep not reading that post. Pataki didn’t make Cuomo do anything. All he did was set a precedent. It’s still Cuomo’s choice to steal from the MTA.

Bruce M February 7, 2013 - 12:03 pm

It’s quite amazing that somehow the Governor was able to ram through the new Tappan Zee Bridge project which benefits private automobile drivers, and without any concrete plan to include transit of course, yet the MTA is left to wither on the vine. It’s as if we have a modern day Robert Moses.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:11 pm

The MTA has capital projects going that cost waaaaaay more than a new Tap. Seriously, it’s true. East Side Access, 7 Extension, 2nd Avenue Subway. All of those will operate in perpetuity at a loss and none will move any freight. If you get a chance, read this blog and you can find out about some of the extensive capital additions to local transit that are much more costly and extensive than anything done on the roads in 40 years. It makes for fascinating reading.

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:24 pm

They cost more, but they also are more useful. At least the SAS and 7ext will each move hundreds of thousands of people per day.

ESA is a better parallel to TZB. It doesn’t move many additional people, but diverts them to something shiny any new. Like the TZB, the idea behind ESA is to offer a pork to suburbanites who don’t like the idea of pulling their own weight.

It’s also quite possible that at least the SAS will not operate at loss. However, the TZB will, as will the highway system it exists to support.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:32 pm

You managed to hit two of the world’s key evils in one shot: roads and suburbanites. Ideally, we could just wall off NYC from the roads and suburbaites and look on with glee as the surrounding areas — which can’t pull their own weight– shrivel without any ability to be resupplied from Manhattan.

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Yet another pointless, deliberate mis-characterization of what I said. This time, it even includes some revanchist hyperbole. Very witty.

SEAN February 7, 2013 - 6:21 pm

@ Eric F, you pulled this nonsence on the former Infrastructurist blog & now you managed to top yourself here. I thaught that wasn’t possible.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 12:33 pm

Stealing from the MTA to give to the highway system… typical.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:06 pm

Where did you see that it’s going to the highway system? Was that in the post? How much highway do you get for $20 million? Are they going to use that to fially build the cross Brooklyn expressway?

Someone February 7, 2013 - 1:38 pm

$20 billion maybe, but not $20 million. The Cross Brooklyn Expressway project will have to relocate lots of people if it is ever built.

Benjamin Kabak February 7, 2013 - 1:40 pm

Add this to the file along with the L via the High Line. Never going to happen, not worth talking about seriously.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:45 pm

I was doing a riff on the paucity of the supposed theft. $20 million can’t buy staplers for the MTA’s offices. We could really use a cross Brooklyn road route though. It would make travel quicker and get rid of tons of traffic on surface streets.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 1:56 pm

Solution: convert Atlantic Avenue into an expressway (not to be confused with “freeway”.) Close surrounding streets to vehicular traffic.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Or bury one under Ocean Blvd keep it underground under Prospect Park and tie it in to the Prospect Expressway. You don’t even have to have any interim exits in Brooklyn, you’d never know it’s there.

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 2:19 pm

Isn’t there some law against road tunnels longer than a certain length?

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:23 pm

I think there’s a law against train tunnels over 250 feet. Could be wrong about that though.

LLQBTT February 7, 2013 - 3:11 pm

Guess all of our subways are illegal then.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 3:44 pm

No, I think that law only applies to train tunnels not under water, without emergency exits.

LLQBTT February 7, 2013 - 3:11 pm

Ocean Parkway. This wouldn’t make sense unless you want all the cars to exit into the Lower New York Bay!

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 4:00 pm

You’d have to tie it to the Belt at the southern end.

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 5:02 pm

Like it, but with the hospital & residents nearby, and also the DOT dropping probably around 7 digits to reconfigure Exit 7 on the Belt plus rebuilding the Ocean Parkway overpass a while ago, it would be a REAL tough pill to pass

Stu Sutcliffe February 7, 2013 - 3:28 pm

Ocean Boulevard?

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 4:09 pm

They call it Ocena Parkway, but it really is a boulevard.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 4:34 pm

More like an expressway.

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 2:14 pm

Time to be blunt: Someone, that is the most shittest idea I have ever heard in my life! Even though ‘Expressway’ has two different meanings, there both horrible for Atlantic Avenue.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:24 pm

That’s the worst idea you’ve ever heard? You must not be a Jets fan.

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 2:51 pm

NOPE! I hate that ‘Yankees-Knicks-Giants-Rangers over Mets-Nets-Jets-Islanders’ thing that was passed around NY sports fans

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 4:01 pm

I’m a Mets and Giants person, myself.

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 4:34 pm

Me too!

Someone February 7, 2013 - 3:41 pm

that is the most shittest idea I have ever heard in my life!

Yeah? How about the idea to put 500 miles of freeways in Los Angeles County?

By the way, what I meant by “expressway” was a “limited-access road” (look up the MUTCD definition for “expressway”.)

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 4:31 pm

Let me be real clear, I don’t give TWO shits about Los Angeles or their 500 miles of controlled-access roads. I live in Brooklyn, New York, CLEAR on the other side of the Country. If you actually bothered to read the entire thing instead of picking-and-choosing, right after that I said,

Even though ‘Expressway’ has two different meanings, there both horrible for Atlantic Avenue.

Evidently I know the definition of “Expressway”

Someone February 7, 2013 - 4:38 pm

Evidently I know the definition of “Expressway”

Really? Then how come you still think I mean a controlled-access road, which is evidently what I do not mean?

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 5:08 pm

I didn’t think & I still dont think you meant controlled-access, I said it in case you decide to flip the script & mean the other

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 5:18 pm

The irony here is: LA, the land of highways and cars, is quickly moving on subway expansion and congestion pricing while NY city and state politicians are feverishly trying to drag us back to the 1950s.

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:26 pm

That thinking is lifted the 1950s. Those types of road routes encourage traffic congestion. It’s better to let drivers distribute themselves across a vast street grid than try to divert them all to one congestion-prone artery.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:35 pm

I knew there was a flaw in there. I have just arrived from the 1950s (I was class president there!), and I didn’t realize times had changed. I like your idea of tearing out the L.I.E. and having the traffic that uses it “disperse itself” all over the side streets of Little Neck. That should go over well. That’s totally 2013.

VLM February 7, 2013 - 2:40 pm

I sometimes wonder if you’re the only person reading progressive transit blogs in 2013 who thinks more roads leads to less congestion or if you’re just the only one brave enough to voice these inane views. More roads = more congestion = worse for the environment, worse for the economy. That’s not even an opinion any longer.

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:52 pm

Everything is an opinion to Eric. Reality is completely malleable. Notice how I somehow said something about tearing out the LIE? And how a statement about a highway in Brooklyn became a comment on Little Neck?

Undergrads might recognize these as examples of straw men!

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 2:55 pm

Yes, transit-dependent Brooklyn deserves to have a big through route imposed on it, with all the attendant noise, traffic, pollution, and lost revenue that is incurred when a highway is built in a major city. Poor little Little Neck, however, should never, ever suffer any imposition from its car dependency at all.

Your thinking is so muddled that I’m amazed you believe half the things you write.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 4:05 pm

I’m advocating a cross Brooklyn route that is underground. That causes no noise or disruption above it. Such a route would siphon off truck traffic from surface streets. The fact is that the trucks are there already, there may as well be a place to put them that moves commerce efficiently with minimal disruption.

As it stands, NYC acts as an effective barrier to commerce because there are not adequate through routes. This is the reason why a bank would laugh you out of the room if you asked for financing for a business plan that involved selling stuff in Brooklyn produced in, say, eastern Queens or Hudson County, NJ, even though those places are only 5-7 miles from Brooklyn.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 4:10 pm

By the way, there is a nice urban area around here that has no highways going through it and is a rail hub. It’s called Newark. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Really, Newark? Small sample size much? There’s another really awful place that doesn’t have highways going through it but has two railroad hubs in it, it’s called midtown Manhattan. Oh…

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 4:49 pm

I suspect, if there is any case to be made for a through route from the mainland to Nassau/Suffolk, it’s through Westchester and over the LI Sound, not a disruptive tunnel through Brooklyn that would be significantly more expensive.

Anyway, I don’t see anything especially offensive about trucks on surface streets. What’s offensive is that they’re stuck in traffic on surface streets, which means they’re polluting more and delivering less, driving up costs for consumers in the process.

Alex February 7, 2013 - 1:02 pm

I cannot fathom that he would give the Thruway Authority an extra $85m to avoid a TRUCK toll hike. That doesn’t even benefit NY State residents for the most part. Meanwhile, the millions of residents who use the MTA are going to start paying more in just a few weeks. OK, I guess what I actually can’t fathom is that no one notices this and he continues to have a high approval rating.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:14 pm

I know! I mean, when was the last time anyone on NY used anything that was delivered by truck?! Come to think of it, I never use that port in Jersey. Maybe they can tax conatiners at a grand a piece and use the money for arts education, it’s just free money anyway.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:02 pm

The MTA’s budget is over $13 billion. $20 million is roughly 0.1% of the MTA’s budget. I wish my own budget was only affected to the tune 0.1% by recent tax increases.

The MTA does a lot of stuff besides run subways, you can just as easily say that the funds were “stolen” from MTA bridges and tunnels. As for the reallocation of the money, it may have be sent to special education, health care for NY’s needy population, nutrition for working families, funding for pension payments for hard working civil servants, translation services for newly arrived individuals, bike paths, arts funding, tuition assistance for CUNY law school, or another admirable use. It’s not obvious it went someplace that you don’t like.

The government allocates and reallocated. “Stolen” is a needlessly hyperbolic description of what goes on all day long. It’d be more accuarte to say that toll surpluses are stolen by the subways, but since ou want to ban cars and force people into subways you wouldn’t caharcterize in that way.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 1:03 pm

$20 million is a lot of service increases lost right there.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 1:08 pm

Yeah, it’s approximately 0.1% of service across all services that the MTA operates including bridges and tunnels, MetroNorth, LIRR and the subways/buses. In other words, actually it’s not a lot.

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Actually, it is to elderly people who rely on buses.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 1:54 pm

Yeah, and a $20 million cut means all of the bus route extensions inaugurated in January 2013.

Eric F February 7, 2013 - 2:10 pm

The Pataki/Cuomo axis attacks the elderly!

Alex C February 7, 2013 - 1:52 pm

Taking money from tax revenue generated by MTA-serviced counties to pay for MTA services in those counties, and throwing that money around at other projects and areas is stealing.

LLQBTT February 7, 2013 - 3:07 pm

This is a good one:

Prospect Expressway (Route 27) from the Gowanus Expressway to Church Avenue in Richmond County

No matter what county you want to put it in, it’s in excellent shape and this is just a waste of $. Meanwhile, the streets in my ‘hood are only 3 potholes away from third world status!


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