Home Capital Program 2015-2019 MTA to run out of capital funding by June 30

MTA to run out of capital funding by June 30

by Benjamin Kabak

As the legislative stalemate over the MTA’s current five-year capital plan nears the start of its 16th month since spending for the plan was due to begin, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly had the audacity to claim an unapproved plan was in line with business as usual for the MTA. He has cited to the 2010-2014 plan as proof, but he has failed to draw an apt analogy. With the world mired in a recession, the MTA’s previous five-year plan was approved in two parts with the state’s Capital Program Review Board authorizing two years and then three for a full five-year plan. This time around, the CPRB has even had the chance to weigh in on the current five-year plan, and even as negotiations around certain projects continue, Cuomo has failed to deliver on repeated promises to fund the plan.

A few weeks ago, shortly after MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast was summoned to Albany to talk MTA finances, I explored how Cuomo’s MTA funding reality have failed to live up to his promises, and now, we learn the bad news: If the MTA capital plan is not approved by the end of June, the agency will not be able to access money to pay contractors for new projects. This deadline does not affect in-progress projects where the money has already been allocated (such as the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway), but without approval key initiatives, including future phases of the Second Ave. Subway, will be delayed further. In fact, one of the reasons why the MTA’s plan to replace the MetroCard has come to a near-stop is due to the fact that the agency cannot yet access funds for the project.

Prendergast told reporters of this deadline during last week’s MTA Board meetings, and the visibly-annoyed MTA head couldn’t put a positive spin on his boss’ inaction, the longest such delay in approval of funding in MTA history. “June 30th of this year,” he said. “That’s when we run out of money [and] can’t make new awards for projects that are in the 15-19 plan. For prior-approved plans, where we have money, we can make those awards, but for new plans, we can’t make those awards.”

The problem, as I’ve detailed, is that Cuomo’s current budget proposal doesn’t include any real commitments to MTA funding. He wants the agency to tap out its essentially limitless ability to fund through borrowing before ponying up any dollars. It’s an IOU, and in response, the Riders Alliance attempted to pay for subway rides with IOUs as well. It didn’t work, and Cuomo’s plan shouldn’t be allowed to stand.

To put an additional bow on this present, after months of listening to upstate complaints about parity, Cuomo’s budget includes billions in actual dollars for New York State DOT projects (in other words, roads), and the parity argument falls apart under any sort of scrutiny. As the Riders Alliance recently detailed in a report, the state is promising over $5 billion more to roads while the MTA regions are expected to pick up $11 billion in capital funding. Upstate municipalities with pending DOT projects aren’t kicking in any money at all, and on paper at least, New York is funding 59 percent of of DOT’s five-year plan with direct contributions while Cuomo has pledged to fund only 31 percent of the MTA’s five-year program.

“The conventional wisdom says that the MTA is getting more state money than roads and bridges, but a basic review of the budget shows that the opposite is true,” John Raskin, the Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo is proposing to put real cash into highways and roads and bridges, but the MTA is just getting an IOU and a promise to revisit the issue sometime down the line. Public transit is literally bursting at the seams, and delays are skyrocketing, but Governor Cuomo is still playing games instead of actually putting in the money that would address the problem.”

The state legislature is expected to pass some budget measure by the end of this week, and the MTA’s financial picture will come into focus. Even with some renewed attention to a tolling/congesting pricing plan, the outcome of this week’s discussion won’t be satisfying for the MTA and its millions of customers, and the game of chicken Cuomo is playing with subway funding is costly for everyone involved. It raises the issue of whether New York City should have more control over its subway system, but the funding obligations that come with such a move are steep. Where we go from here should echo throughout the next years and decades, but I’m not sure anyone should hold his or her breath over a positive outcome this late in the game.

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Roxie March 28, 2016 - 6:04 am


NYC is fucked, isn’t it?

Nathanael April 24, 2016 - 11:25 pm

So is NYS.

It’s not as if Cuomo is funding NYS High Speed Rail — he isn’t. He already destroyed most of the upstate bus systems with a stealth funding change which has infuriated nearly every county legislator upstate.

But asphalt contractors should be happy.

bigbellymon4 March 28, 2016 - 7:49 am

This might be a noob question, but I seriously don’t know IOU. Does it stand for I Owe You?

Cuomo is really messed up for doing to his constituents. MTA is 34 billion is debt, subways are packed to the gills, it is also in a dire need of repair. And not approving funding is just the icing on the cake. If the subways are going to get any better, it is not within this decade or the next 2. Is it possible for a transit advocate to run for governor? We NEED many of them, not only in the State Assembly but also as governor. The sad part is politics is too corrupt for any to run for those offices.

AMH March 28, 2016 - 9:44 am

You got it.

Eric March 28, 2016 - 5:31 pm

Well, seeing how we can’t even get a transit advocate for mayor…

madbandit March 28, 2016 - 8:57 am

Cuomo continues to prove he’s a terrible, and corrupt governor.

At what point does NYC just seriously consider becoming its own state? (I can dream, right?)

theantihipster March 28, 2016 - 1:09 pm

I think you’ll find that everyone outside of NYC feels the same way. NYC gave Cuomo to the rest of the state, not the other way around.

Nathanael April 24, 2016 - 11:26 pm

Yeah, Cuomo’s a complete disaster upstate.

By dogging him at every single public appearance, we just barely managed to get fracking banned — thank goodness, because water table poisoning is forever and irreversible.

But he’s done major damage to every single upstate county’s budget. And I can’t think of anything good he’s done. 😛

JJ April 6, 2016 - 11:45 am Reply
Komanoff March 28, 2016 - 9:05 am

Solid reporting, as usual. But please rethink your lede. There’s no “legislative stalemate.” It’s Gov. Cuomo’s refusal to put forth an actual funding plan to generate the MTA capital funds he promised. The stalemate is his/him.

eo March 28, 2016 - 10:10 am

That is what happens when those in power have never commuted on any public transit themselves. The only time Cuomo was around public transit was for a few photo-ops. He has no understanding what the experience of a regular commuter is with all the delays, re-routings, broken equipment and overcrowding.

Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. March 28, 2016 - 10:59 am

To all of the commenters of this spectacular blog: Let’s be realistic and serious Ladies in Gentleman: The MTA 2015-2019 Capital Plan was not approved by the Capital Program Review Board for one the following reasons, in which the MTA still needs $7.3B for their program that was unfunded – The MOVE NY Fair Tolling Plan and other forms of congestion pricing in NYC are out of the question because many elected officials and their constituents in the outer boroughs are firmly opposed these, due to the fact that some people have no other transportation options except driving a motorized vehicle point a to point b and they are the part of the working class. Disclaimer: I am a Riders Alliance Member who is with many of my brethren during the MTA Board Meeting on that day. Note: Before you criticize me, take yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: Is NYC will have a next fiscal crisis because of this? And don’t mention about fare evasion by the riders or the taxpayers who are footed the bill for this: That is the least of our problems. In terms of the MOVE NY Plan, I know that there is a likelihood that it will pass through the Republican Led State Senate and the Governor in the short term. Unless there is a major domino effect: 1) The deadline for finding a reasonable, source of general funding for the MTA 2015-2019 Capital Plan is due on April 1, where the state budget is due; 2) The MTA Chairman and CEO had warned that the MTA will be running out of money for capital projects after June 30 of this year, so kicking the can down the road is out of the question realistically; 3) If this happens, then the subway, bus and commuter rail systems in the MTA region will be deteriorating to the gory days of the 1970s and the 1980s; 4) The fiscal crisis will be starting to loom, which could result in the decline in the NYC economy; 5) Although the most recent U.S. Census had said that there are over 8.6 million people living in NYC, I will assume that some people will be moving out to the suburbs or in another state; 6) Who is the blame for all of this? Governor Andrew Cuomo because he make all the final decisions towards the MTA; 7) Who will pay for all of this despite that there is tens of billions of dollars in deferred maintenance? My millennial generation as well future generations, since I am a 24 year old recent college graduate. This is the dire reality we are facing right now and realistically: The MOVE NY plan will have a chance to go through at the most perfect timing possible. BTW, you can check out the video made by the same transit advocacy group that I am a member of, the Riders Alliance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-wa7swrx2c. Or go to Twitter using #CuomosMTA. To the commenters of this blog, after watching this video, then look at the mirror and ask yourself: Is this the time that we fighting for all citizens? Any replies to me, please fire away. Thank you so much.

adirondacker12800 March 28, 2016 - 5:03 pm

due to the fact that some people have no other transportation options except driving a motorized vehicle point a to point b and they are the part of the working class.

The buses would be exempt from the congestion charges.

Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. March 28, 2016 - 5:08 pm

Thanks for the clarification adirondacker12800.

SEAN March 28, 2016 - 11:42 am

It’s finally time to break up NYS & create a state for the city, LI & Westchester County. This crap needs to stop.

JB March 28, 2016 - 2:40 pm

That was tried once, but it failed over who gets to keep the name “New York.”

LLQBTT March 29, 2016 - 8:42 am

Not sure why you want Westchester & LI along for the ride?

Spuds March 29, 2016 - 11:52 am

As a former downstate resident and living in “real” Upstate for a quarter of a century I can see both sides of the issues. 1. No fan of Cuomo or any of his polices. He has hurt NY as whole. 2. You folks downstate really can’t complain since it was you guys that got him re-elected. 3. There is no dount that mass transit is the lifeblood of downstate and it needs to ne properly maintained. 4. Don’t get on your high horse if you think parity for upstate highways some kind of evil thing. Outside of the snail rail in Buffalo, there are no commuter rail lines and any form of mass transit that exists happens to be busses, and guess what folks, they need well maintained roadways to function. 5. It is time to split NY into two states: South NY would get Sullivan, Ulster, Orange, Rockland, Duchess, Putnam, Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk and the five counties/boroughs of NYC. The MTA would not cross over into North New York. As part of deal, we get Vermont which was initially claimed by NY and you guys get Cuomo as the “booby prize”.

BruceNY March 29, 2016 - 1:22 pm

Sadly, Upstate N.Y. is in a slow downward spiral–the population is continuing to shrink, and therefore its economy, and vice-versa. NYC is the engine of growth, so it makes no sense (outside of political pandering) to devote huge sums to upstate road projects other than maintaining what they already have and ensuring that no bridges collapse.

Nathanael April 24, 2016 - 11:28 pm

What upstate needs is high speed rail connecting upstate to NYC. That connection is how Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo thrived back in the 19th century; that’s how they will thrive again.

Cuomo, of course refuses to fund it. Roads roads roads. We don’t need more roads up here. We need some railways.

Receiver March 28, 2016 - 11:58 am

Hehehehe very good… end the bailouts and send them right into my arms…


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