Advocates and Unions to Cuomo: Put a Stop to Transit Raids

A broad coalition of good government groups, transit and environmental advocates, and unions sent a letter to Andrew Cuomo on Friday [PDF] urging the incoming governor to protect straphangers by ensuring that transit revenues are spent on transit.

Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo could singlehandedly save millions of transit riders from the threat of further fare hikes and service cuts. Photo: Wikimedia

In the last year, Albany raids have shortchanged the MTA of more than $160 million, deepening a budget crisis brought on by the recession and leading to the worst service cuts in a generation. The overwhelming majority of the plundered funds were taken from revenue sources dedicated exclusively to transit and re-directed to the state’s general fund.

Today’s letter calls on Cuomo to restore those funds and put a stop to the practice of plugging state budget gaps by raiding transit. With Albany heading into 2011 looking at a deficit bigger than $9 billion, it will take strong leadership from the governor to head off a disastrous repeat of the December 2009 budget deal that robbed the MTA of $140 million. Any surprises like that would hit straphangers hard, in all likelihood setting off another round of service cuts and fare hikes.

Cuomo has the power, on his own, to protect transit riders and preserve the integrity of transit funding. With a single directive to his staff, he can prevent dedicated MTA revenue from being siphoned off for other purposes — a policy that good government groups call “The Governor’s Locked Box.”

The Governor’s Locked Box is now shaping up to be the primary transit policy objective of 2011, with 30 groups reminding Cuomo:

You campaigned on a pledge of restoring honest and ethical government. What could be more basic to
good governance than keeping the promise to taxpayers and transit riders that dedicated transit funds be spent for the sole purpose for which they were enacted? One quarter of the state’s workforce relies on mass transit to get to work.

Cuomo officially takes office on January 1.