May 20, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale
If the world doesn’t end this Sunday, people are going to need mass transit. And the MTA is going to need mass transit funding a guarantee that money dedicated to bus and subway service isn’t yanked away at the last minute by the State legislature.
On Thursday, Transit unions, advocates, and politicians including Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Chair of the Committee that oversees the MTA, State Senator Martin Golden, and TWU Local 100’s John Samuelsen crowdedinto the Times Square subway entrance on 41st Street and 7th Avenue to build momentum for A.6766/S.4257, which would place tough obstacles in the way of politicians trying to rob transit of previously allocated funds.
As transportation advocates including the Straphanger’s Gene Russianoff and Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White noted at the press event, Governors Paterson and Cuomo have “swept” more than $360 million from public transportation funding money collected from dedicated taxes meant specifically for transit into other portions of the state budget in the past two years.
Brennan and Golden aren’t having it. The Transit Funding Lockbox Act (A6766/S4257) would amend section 182 of the State Executive Law to prohibit the State Budget Director from diverting revenue derived from taxes and fees paid by the public expressly to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority into the general fund of the state or into any other fund maintained for the support of another governmental purpose. According to the bill, such a diversion could only be done by statute enacted into law. Any statutory diversion of funds would also have to include a diversion impact statement detailing the diversion, including amount and an estimate of the impact of the diversion on the level of mass transit service, maintenance and security.
Local 100 President Samuelsen said that TWU strongly endorses the legislation. “The diversion last year of funding for public transportation resulted in the largest service reductions in New York City history,” said Samuelsen. “Pinched funds this year will lead to additional service cutbacks, more dangerous stations and platforms, increased breakdowns of the rolling stock, and a needless decrease in quality of life throughout the transit system. The Lockbox legislation is a rational and necessary approach to protect this vitally essential public service, and to speed the economic recovery not only for the City but for the entire region.”