50 Groups Urge Governor Cuomo to Sign “Transit Lockbox” Bill
Passed Unanimously by State Assembly and Senate
Bill Helps Safeguard Transit Funding Statewide Against Budget Raids
New York, NY – Sometime before the New Year, Governor Cuomo will decide to sign or veto the Transit Lockbox bill (Dinowitz A8511/Golden S6807), which unanimously passed both the State Assembly and Senate earlier this year. The Transit Lockbox bill will make it politically more difficult to raid transit funds. It requires the state budget director to issue a “diversion impact statement” detailing how the diversion of funds will impact riders in the form of changes to transit service, safety and maintenance.
Today, fifty labor, business, transit, environmental, civil rights, social justice and watchdog groups urged the governor to sign the bill as part of his efforts to rescue the MTA. Earlier this week, the MTA Sustainability Advisory Workgroup convened by the Legislature and Governor in its report included a recommendation for a “lockbox” for congestion pricing or other new revenues for the MTA, as well as the dedicated taxes that are already in place.
The groups, including Reinvent Albany, the Riders Alliance, Environmental Advocates, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Amalgamated Transit Union, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers District of 32BJ/SEIU, General Contractors Association, Regional Plan Association and dozens of other organizations, demanded that the state permanently stop diverting money from transit dedicated funds to other purposes. The legislation is also supported by two groups who have sent separate letters to the Governor – the New York Building Congress and the New York Association of Counties.
Transit funding raids hurt subway and bus service, undermine public confidence that future transit funding will be spent only on transit, and generally reduce trust in government. New York City’s population and economy rely on public transit, whether directly or because the subway and bus network enables the flow of car and truck traffic. One quarter of New Yorkers statewide take public transit to get to work. Riders pay transit fares, and additional dedicated taxes support essential transit service. When the state takes money away from transit, it weakens those services and riders’ trust.
Unfortunately, New York State has a history of raiding dedicated transit funds and employing shady budget maneuvers involving the MTA. In 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015, the state diverted a total of $391.5 million from Metropolitan Transportation Authority funds to the state’s general fund. In 2017, the state reduced its promised reimbursement to the MTA, made in exchange for a prior cut in a dedicated MTA tax, by $65 million. Also in 2017, at the state’s direction, the MTA sent $4.9 million to upstate ski resorts as part of a state bailout after lift ticket sales suffered during a warm, dry winter. The state has also promised but not yet delivered $7.3 billion to fund the MTA’s current $33.2 billion fiscal year 2015 – 2019 capital improvement plan.
Prior attempts to protect transit funding have been frustrated. In 2011, the Legislature passed a lockbox bill for MTA dedicated funds, but at the Governor’s urging nullified it by removing the “diversion impact statement” as part of separate legislation. In 2013, the Legislature again passed an expanded, statewide transit lockbox bill but Governor Cuomo vetoed it. The 2018 bill is identical to the 2013 bill.