Governor Cuomo Signs Into Law Transit Lockbox Bill He Previously Vetoed and “Gutted”

Cuomo Heeds Call From 50 Groups to Safeguard NYS Transit Funding

Reinvent Albany has been advocating for a Transit Lockbox Law since 2011, and now, after one bill was gutted in 2011 and another vetoed in 2013, we finally have one.

Reinvent Albany thanks Governor Cuomo for signing into law the Statewide Transit Lockbox. The new law makes it politically more difficult to raid transit funds by requiring 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.

Reinvent Albany also thanks Assemblymember Jeff Dinowitz for sponsoring A8511 with former Senator Marty Golden. Reinvent Albany has been working to pass the “transit lockbox” since 2011 and the current law is identical to a bill vetoed by Governor Cuomo in 2013.

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. The MTA Sustainability Advisory Workgroup convened by the Legislature and Governor recommended a “lockbox”  for congestion pricing and other new revenues for the MTA, as well as existing dedicated taxes. Reinvent Albany believes the Transit Lockbox will increase public confidence that dedicated funding for transit will go to transit. The group also supports measures to send transit dedicated funds directly to transit agencies. (The Payroll Mobility Tax now goes directly to the MTA instead of to NY State, which appropriated funds back to the MTA.)

Reinvent Albany salutes the multi-year “lockbox” advocacy of our colleagues at Riders Alliance, Environmental Advocates, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Transportation Alternatives and support for the legislation from Amalgamated Transit Union, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers District of 32BJ/SEIU, General Contractors Association, Regional Plan Association, the New York Building Congress, the New York Association of Counties and NYC Partnership and dozens of other prominent organizations.

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.