Since 2011, Reinvent Albany and numerous advocacy, business and labor organizations have supported a series of “lockbox” bills that would make it more difficult for the governor to divert funds dedicated to public transit to the General Fund or other purposes. This 2018 bill is identical to a bill vetoed by the governor in 2013.
MEMO IN SUPPORT
STATEWIDE LOCKBOX FOR DEDICATED TRANSIT FUNDS A.8511 (Dinowitz)/ S.6807 (Golden)
April 23, 2018
TITLE OF BILL
AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to a prohibition on diversion of funds dedicated to public transportation systems in New York State.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS
This bill would amend Section 182 of the executive law, to prohibit the director of the budget, or any other member of the executive branch, from diverting funds dedicated to public transportation systems anywhere in NY State to the general fund or to any other purpose. These dedicated funds include revenues derived from taxes and fees paid by the public into any fund created by law including, but not limited to, Sections 88, 89-c and 92 FF of the state finance law and chapter 25 of the laws of 2009.
In the event of a diversion of such funds by passage of legislation during a regular or extraordinary session of the legislature, the director of the budget shall include a “diversion impact statement” in the statute diverting the funds. The impact statement shall include:
- the total amount of the diversion;
- the amount diverted from each dedicated mass transit fund;
- the diversion expressed as monthly transit fares;
- the amount diverted during the preceding five years;
- the date when the diversion is to occur; and a
- a detailed estimate of the impact of the diversion on public transportation service, maintenance, security and the current capital program.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT
In 2011, in reaction to the diversion of $260 million in transit funds by the Governor, the Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly passed legislation prohibiting the diversion of MTA dedicated funds – the “transit lock box” bill, S.4257C/A.6766C of 2011. That legislation was effectively nullified in December 2011 as part of a special session that changed the personal income tax. The bill to protect the MTA’s dedicated transit funds drew strong interest outside of the MTA service area, and many legislators and transit supporters statewide (see the listing at the end of this memo) sought a new bill to expand the law to all public transportation systems in NY State. In 2013, the expanded legislation – which is identical to A.8511/S.6807 of 2018 – was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by the Governor.
Legislators, and the New Yorkers they represent, recognized that diverting dedicated transit funds is poor policy, and is a breach of trust with the public. As a matter of principle and practice, transit dedicated funds should be spent only for subway, bus and commuter operations and transit capital projects. Dedicated funds were explicitly created for the specific purpose of providing public transportation systems with a “stable and reliable dedicated funding source.”
In the NYC metropolitan region, past diversions of transit dedicated funds led to the elimination of 36 bus routes and subway service—burdening millions of city and suburban riders with greater waits, more crowding, extra transfers and longer trips. Some commuter rail riders had their trains eliminated and stops added to remaining trains. Paratransit service for individuals with disabilities were made even less convenient or, in some communities, eliminated completely.
Across the state, transit agencies are experiencing record ridership levels and severely constrained budgets. Steady and reliable funding sources are crucial to assuring the integrity of our transit systems, especially for the most vulnerable, New Yorkers who can least afford to have their transit service cut or their fare hiked.
We strongly support this legislation, and call for its passage again in 2018.