February 16, 2012
By Neal Tepel
State Senator Martin J. Golden (R,C,I –Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C-Brooklyn, Staten Island) had a convivial session with a dozen unions representing the workforce of the MTA – including New York City Transit, Metro North, various commuter lines, and Bridge and Tunnel operators. Meeting at the AFL-CIO building on South Swan Street in Albany Tuesday, February 14th, the legislators trumpeted a new bill they introduced ending fees the MTA now pays to the State Division of Budget for borrowing money for private investors.
These fees have amounted to $100 million since 2006 as the MTA increasingly relied on bond issues to fund capital construction work. Unless reined in by Golden’s bill, the MTA would pay out an additional $76 million for bond fees in 2012. The savings would come out of the MTA’s operating budget, which goes for worker and administrative salaries and system maintenance. The legislation is being supported by MTA Board Member Allen Cappelli of Staten Island, who said, “The MTA is a transportation agency, not a bank, and we need to direct as much of our revenue towards service as we possibly can.”
But in other remarks, the Republicans made it clear that they aren’t keen on new taxes to help the MTA with its cash-flow problems. Senator Golden told the Coalition that the people of New York State had recouped about $1.5 billion from the partial rollback of the “millionaire’s tax” early this year, and that he believe that this should be enough. Echoing a TWU Local 100 position, Assemblywoman Malliotakis said that the MTA should stop using “pay as you go” funds to support capital construction projects, and that those diverted funds should be replenished to support the operating budget. She decried the 2010 MTA service cuts on Staten Island which saw eight bus lines eliminated.
Handing an olive branch to Unions which often support Democrats, Golden called Governor Cuomo’s Tier VI pension plan “devastating” to civil service workers and “disingenuous at best.” He appeared to support the AFL-CIO’s position that the Tier V pension which now applies to thousands of State workers should be studied and absorbed before a new tier is legislated.
Governor Cuomo’s Transportation Department has announced a $770 million cash infusion to the MTA’s capital budget. The extra money helps the MTA’s capital construction efforts over the next three years. The Governor has also made good on his pledge to protect the transit funding threatened by a $250 milion reduction in the payroll mobility tax enacted earlier this year.