TSTC: Cuomo Budget Would Raid $20 Million From the MTA

If you thought Albany had gotten over the habit of raiding the MTA for cash, think again.

Nadine Lemmon at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign reports that there’s a $20 million transit raid lurking in Governor Cuomo’s 2013 executive budget:

This $20 million diversion of funds comes from a pot of money that is statutorily dedicated to cover the operating needs of the MTA. The Executive Budget, however, declared that this $20 million diversion is “surplus,” but there is no explanation of  how funds are determined to be surplus.

The 2013 transit raid isn’t as big as other recent Albany raids, which were $100 million or larger. And unlike the 2009 raid it won’t lead to service cuts, since the MTA’s dedicated tax revenues are beating projections. Still, that’s $20 million the MTA won’t have to restore service.

This explains why Cuomo didn’t enact the transit lockbox bill that advocates pushed for in 2011: He still wants to use the MTA as a piggy bank when it suits him.

Transit raids can be tough to pick out amidst all the budgetese, and the way the Cuomo administration cloaked this year’s theft looks especially sneaky. Lemmon flagged it last week in this language in the budget proposal:

“The Budget will use surplus mass transportation operating assistance funds to pay for a portion of the debt service associated with previously issued MTA service contract bonds. (2013-14 Value: $20 million; 2014-15 Value: $0).”

What the budget summary doesn’t say is that the state’s general fund would have paid this $20 million if the administration hadn’t stepped in and diverted the MTA’s $20 million. How transparent!

As Lemmon points out, the transit lockbox bill would have compelled the Cuomo administration to disclose the raid and explain its impacts on the MTA. The way things stand, the governor can continue to sweep it all under the rug.