February 26, 2018
Reinvent Albany opposes the proposed 6-person “Mass Transit Expert Panel”, presented in Governor Cuomo’s 30-Day Amendments, and rejects the rationale provided for it in the recent Op-Ed by State Division of the Budget Director Robert Mujica.
Under the governor’s proposal, this panel is a “Super Board” that would have enormous power over the MTA and essentially supplant the MTA Board and Capital Program Review Board. According to the governor’s 30 day amendments, this “Super Board” will: review and approve the MTA capital plans, operating budgets, and an MTA reorganization plan, as well as “determine” congestion tolls and fees. Yet despite these powers, the Governor’s proposal does not explain who would appoint this new “Super Board.”
Robert Mujica’s Op-ed calls on the legislature to adopt congestion pricing – which we support – stating that they should follow the framework provided in the Governor’s budget proposals. He goes on to say that “This approach is in line with how tolling is established across the state. The Legislature doesn’t set the tolls on the Thruway or on tolled bridges operated by the MTA and Port Authority.”
Mujica is right that the Legislature doesn’t set fares or tolls – the MTA Board does. The congestion pricing proposal presented in the Governor’s Executive Budget in January provided that the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (referred to as MTA Bridges and Tunnels) would have the power to “charge tolls and fees”, and states that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would “establish the congestion tolling program.” This implies that the MTA Board would have been responsible for voting to set the price for congestion tolls, as it currently does for subway, bus and commuter fares, as well as bridge tolls.
This is not the time to make major changes to redistribute power over the MTA’s governance structure, as there are too many stakeholders at risk. Changes to the governance of the MTA should be made independently of the budget after full and thorough discussion by MTA stakeholders and the public.