Transit Funding Lockbox Act Passes Assembly, Bill Sent to Governor's Desk
June 27, 2011
By Neal Tepel
In an important win for transit riders, the State Assembly today voted unanimously to put a stop to continued raids on dedicated funding for public transit by passing the Transit Funding Lockbox Act. The State Senate acted on the bill on June 22, 2011. The legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Park Slope), and Senator Martin Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) prohibits the State budget director from sweeping funds dedicated for the mass transit system without legislative approval, and requires a diversion impact statement if the Legislature chooses to authorize the use of these monies for other than their original purpose.
Supporters believe the bill will prevent public transit fare hikes and service cuts."The bases are loaded, now it's time for Governor Cuomo to knock it out of the park and sign this bill into law," says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "Our Governor has promised to restore transparency to Albany and this bill will fulfill that promise by making sure transit dollars are spent on their intended purpose: transit."
"Funds that have been dedicated by the State legislature to aid transit should go to transit. And this bill asks the State to think long and hard before diverting these dollars," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samulesen said, "It's not only a win for public transportation, but for good government. It also demonstrates that transit workers teaming with transit riders and responsible legislators is a winning combination. Had this bill been in place last year, we wouldn't have had to face the massive service reductions and layoffs that caused so much pain for workers and riders. We fully expect Governor Cuomo to sign the bill."
"Taking away dedicated tax revenue, especially in difficult economic times such as these, creates massive financial problems," Assemblyman Brennan said. "This law will strengthen the Legislature's hand in providing the needed funds for the operations of the subways and buses throughout the City of New York and the commuter rail lines."
Senator Golden added, "I sponsored the Transit Funding Lockbox Act to stand up for all those who ride the buses and trains and have been asked to pay more for less service. This legislation will guarantee that funds dedicated to support the Metropolitan Transit Authority's commuter system, will actually be spent for such purposes and not get lost on the account of other State expenses. I urge Governor Cuomo to sign this legislation into law so to create greater financial integrity for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and end the days of simultaneous fare hikes and service reductions."
Over the last three years, the State Government raided a total of $260 million from dedicated MTA funding.
The Transit Lockbox Act is supported by a diverse coalition of groups, including transit and environmental advocates, good government watchdogs, labor and business interests. Coalition members include: TWU Local 100, Amalgamated Transit Union Locals – 726, 1056, 1179, 1181, American Railway & Airway Supervisors Association Local 5197, Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association, District Council 37 Local 375, Empire State Transportation Alliance, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 754, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 808, the New York Building Congress, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, NCFO/SEIU32BJ, New York State Council of Machinists, SSOBA, 252, Transportation Alternatives, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Reinvent Albany, United Transportation Union 1440, WEACT for Environmental Justice, Pratt Center for Community Development, UPROSE, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA and the New York League of Conservation Voters.