MTA Fiscal Crisis Requires Federal Rescue Funds and Stopping Police Expansion


Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany to MTA Board
Recorded June 22, 2020

Re: MTA Still Needs $3.9B in Federal Aid, Expanding MTA Police Forces Should Be Stopped, and Revised Debarment Guidelines Don’t Fix a Flawed Law

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. We continue to honor the heroic work of MTA essential workers, some of whom have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

We strongly support the MTA’s April request for an additional $3.9B in federal emergency rescue funds to keep the trains and buses running. Federal aid needs to come soon. The $3.8B from the CARES Act will run out in a few months, as the MTA continues to sustain massive revenue losses from fares and tolls. In May alone, the MTA saw $486M in fare revenue losses and $104M in lost bridge and toll revenue. Dedicated taxes are also seeing large losses. The Mass Transportation Operating Assistance Fund (MTOA) – one of the MTA’s largest dedicated taxes – saw a 48% drop in revenue in May according to the State Comptroller’s reports on tax receipts, with $182M lost over the last two months compared to what was received in 2019.

We are advocating hard for more federal funding for the MTA. Last week we released a report making the case that federal investment in the MTA is an investment in American jobs. We found that from 2011 to 2018, the MTA spent $8B on vendors in states outside of New York – a third of total MTA domestic spending. This investment supported as many as 100,000 jobs nationally, in 46 states other than New York, and includes everything from wooden railroad ties from West Virginia to uniforms from South Carolina.

Yesterday, the MTA’s CFO was quoted saying that the MTA “is facing the most acute financial crisis in its history.” The numbers don’t lie, the MTA is broke. This is clearly not the time to almost double the size of the MTA police force. The MTA should not hire the remaining 340 police officers, which could save the MTA $170M through 2023. Longer term, stopping the further expansion of the MTA police will save $530M over 10 years due to increasing costs like pensions and salaries, which cap out at $100,368 after seven years.

Lastly, while the MTA’s revised debarment guidelines are an improvement over the first draconian emergency regulations, the law itself remains severely flawed. We understand that the MTA is bound by state law, but debarment of contractors creates an environment where contractors will charge more to compensate for their increased risks. The law also risks politicizing the procurement process and potentially creating undue pressure on vendors to make campaign contributions to avoid debarment. We believe that the law’s adoption via late night Albany budget negotiations was not carefully considered, and the provision should be repealed.

Thank you for your consideration.