The Fuse Is Still Lit on MTA Debt Bomb

Flash back a few weeks to the heat of the MTA funding debate: Remember all the talk about long-term, sustainable funding streams for our transit system? That's what the Ravitch plan was supposed to deliver. We knew as soon as the deal went down last month that the state legislature and Governor Paterson flubbed their chance to make good on that promise. Now, writes Ben Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas, state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has issued a report that makes it official:

Most notable in DiNapoli’s reports are the debt warnings. While fairly technical and seemingly far off into the future, the MTA’s current projected borrowing levels will come back to plague the agency. The MTA is going to use the mobility tax to generate $6.8 billion in Bonds. By 2020, according to DiNapoli, debt service will cost the MTA $440 million in revenue from the mobility payroll tax. Furthermore, the agency is going to take on new debt to fund the 2010-2014 capital plan, and the MTA could be mired in $3.2 billion of debt service spending by 2020.

That's more than double what the MTA currently pays each year to cover its debts. With all those billions coming out of the operating budget, everyone who rides the subway or the bus is going to pay, while car commuters continue to get a free ride.