After garnering State Senate approval last week, the Transit Lockbox Bill is heading back to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk as the State Assembly unanimously passed the measure this morning. The lockbox idea grew out of the efforts of advocates who have long urged the state to better protect transit funding, but when the bill passed in 2011, Cuomo removed the protections that would have made it less politically convenient to reallocate transit funding.
In its current form, the lockbox prohibits the state budget director from diverting money from any collection designed to fund the MTA or New York City Transit in any form to any general state budget fund. The funds may be diverted only if the governor declares a fiscal emergency, and the state legislature enacts a law authorizing such a diversion. Even then, such law must include a diversion impact statement outlining the total amount taken, that amount as the volume of current fare revenue, the cumulative amount taken over the previous five years, and a detailed statement of impact on service, maintenance, security and the capital program.
In 2011, when Albany last approved the lockbox, the bill sat on Cuomo’s desk for six months until he killed the protections, but supporters are more optimistic this time around. “I don’t think the Governor can water the bill down this time,” Gene Russianoff said last week. “For Cuomo, the option is only yes or no.” Hopefully, we’ll get a yes, but I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, there’s been no further action on Tom Prendergast’s nomination to MTA Chair/CEO, and the Senate’s legislative session ends tomorrow.