The “Big Ugly” is what Albany insiders call the hodge podge of items passed with little review in the wee hours of the last night of the legislative session. This year’s Big Ugly included two changes to MTA management and governance that decrease accountability and transparency.
1. The Legislature agreed to the Governor’s proposal to make the current and future state governor’s state budget director “ex officio” or as of right, appointees to the MTA Board without the need for senate approval. (All other board members need senate approval.) Reinvent Albany opposed this saying the budget director can’t “serve two masters.” (It is impossible to fulfill both the oath of office as budget director to governor and the fiduciary duty as an MTA Board member.) We also criticized the Legislature for stripping itself of confirmation powers over one confirmation for the board of by far the biggest state authority.
2. The Legislature agreed to the Governor’s proposal to create a “Director of Transformation” hired by and reporting to the MTA Board. For first time, MTA staff — in this case a senior manager with very broad powers — will report to the board and not the MTA’s CEO. We view this as a big step backwards for MTA accountability and completely contrary to needed reforms that clarify chain of command, accountability and transparency.