Cuomo and Paladino Serious About Reform? Transit Provides the Test
This blog entry was coauthored by Transportation Alternatives
What makes New York City home to the largest concentration of jobs in the country? What saves New York City families $19 billion a year in transportation costs? Why are New York City’s closest suburbs recovering from economic recession faster than those further away? The answers to all three questions are the same: our mass transit system.
Unfortunately, state lawmakers routinely forget that the state’s economic health and the health of mass transit are tied together. For decades they have starved the transit system of adequate funding. Over the past year Albany went so far as to take $160 million in dedicated revenue from transit. For the sake of New York’s economy, and for the 2.3 million New Yorkers that rely on transit to get to work, Albany’s neglect of mass transit must end.
Gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino have made reform of Albany the central message of their campaigns. Albany’s approach to mass transit does need reform, but it shouldn’t come via baseball bat. Or by vowing to “revisit” the MTA mobility tax, which provides more than $1 billion in transit revenue. By implying that he will end the mobility tax, Cuomo is telling voters that he is more willing to rack up political points than to make the tough choices that will save mass transit.
The MTA is the state’s economic engine and the backbone of the nation’s largest metropolitan economy. The next governor must acknowledge that. Real reform means making smart investments in transit that will save taxpayers money in the long-term, boost the state’s competitiveness, and drive renewed economic growth.
Today we released a five-step platform for the gubernatorial candidates to solve the MTA’s budget crisis and reinvest in mass transit. The governor and state legislature are directly responsible for the MTA’s finances: they decide how much revenue flows to the authority, and only they have the power to put the MTA on sound financial footing. While MTA executives can cut costs at the margins, only a concerted plan led by the next governor can redirect investment to the state’s mass transit system and avert a fiscal disaster.
1. Return the $160 million taken from the MTA over the last year by the state legislature and prevent state lawmakers from using dedicated transit funds for other purposes.
2. End the fiscally irresponsible reliance on debt by restoring the state’s contribution to the MTA capital program to 20 percent of the program’s cost.
3. Protect millions of straphangers from threats to repeal the mobility tax which, if repealed, would result in yearly MTA budget deficits of over one billion dollars.
4. Create sustainable sources of transit revenue, funded by everyone who benefits from transit, including riders, drivers and businesses.
5. Lead New York’s congressional delegation to secure higher levels of federal funding that would help expand public transit service access to underserved areas.
The next governor will no longer be able to shift the blame onto MTA executives for their own poor decisions. MTA chief Jay Walder has already made cuts to save the MTA $500 million annually. [The MTA is the state’s economic engine and the backbone of the nation’s largest metropolitan economy. The next governor must acknowledge that. Real reform means making smart investments in transit that will save taxpayers money in the long-term, boost the state’s competitiveness, and drive renewed economic growth.