Testimony: MTA Needs Billions in Fed Rescue Funds, and No State Budget Raids

     

Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany to MTA Board
Re: We Strongly Support MTA Request for Billions in Federal Rescue Aid and
No Raids on MTA Dedicated Funds In State Budget Adjustments

Pre-Recorded on May 18, 2020

Good morning, I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government — including for state authorities like the MTA. First, we would like to express our continued appreciation for the essential work being undertaken by MTA employees. We honor the more than 100 transit workers who have lost their lives and offer our condolences to their family, friends and colleagues.

These are dire times for the MTA and we strongly support the MTA’s request for an additional $3.9B in federal emergency rescue funds. In April alone, the MTA lost nearly $600M in fare and toll revenue. ($487M in fares, and $104M in tolls.) This is a gigantic hole and the MTA has said it needs $10.4B total in federal emergency aid through the end of 2021 to survive. We are working hard with MTA and transit advocates here and in Washington to get the MTA the funding it must have from Congress.

Federal rescue aid is crucial, but it’s also vital that New York State does its part and does not balance its own budget by raiding MTA dedicated funds. As Reinvent Albany and ten of our colleagues wrote to the Governor and Legislative Leaders in April, the upcoming May state budget modification – which has not yet been announced – must respect that MTA dedicated taxes were created to provide “a stable and reliable dedicated funding source” for subway, bus, commuter rail and transit capital projects. MTA dedicated taxes should be entirely appropriated to the MTA and not thrown into the state general fund.

As it is, the Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance Fund – MMTOA – decreased $140M in April 2020 from April 2019. This is a 47% decrease in revenue according to the Comptroller’s reports on tax receipts. The MTA cannot afford to have these critical operating funds reduced further through “across the board” cuts to the state budget, which if applied to dedicated funds, will effectively be a raid on taxes created by the Legislature solely for the MTA.

We have asked the Governor and Legislative Leaders to ensure that the MTA keeps every dollar of dedicated tax revenue that comes in, with no MTA funds used to prop up the state’s general fund shortfall. Using MTA funds for general state purposes will also diminish the MTA’s argument that it needs additional federal funding in order to be able to provide service and balance its books for the year. We will continue to work at the federal and state level to ensure that the MTA – and the riders they serve – have the funding needed to ensure the continued recovery of our region, which is dependent on a healthy and functioning mass transit system. Thank you for your time.