MTA “Doomsday” Options Still Leave Agency $2B Short – Comment to MTA Board


Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany to MTA Board
Recorded September 21, 2020

Re: Federal Funding Remains Urgent, as Proposed August “Doomsday” Cuts
Still Leaves MTA With $2B Gap

Good morning. I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government, including for authorities like the MTA.

The federal government’s continued failure to deliver additional COVID-19 emergency aid puts MTA riders in great jeopardy of severe service cuts. The MTA ran out of emergency aid from the federal CARES Act in July, and is losing $200M a week. The “doomsday” options presented in August by the MTA would be devastating, and even worse, don’t even represent the full scope of cuts that would be needed for the MTA to balance its budget.

As we wrote in an op-ed in Gotham Gazette this week, even if the MTA takes draconian action and cuts service 40-50%, raises fares and tolls, and lays off thousands of workers, it will still need to find another $2B in revenue or cuts through 2021. If the massive cuts are sustained for four painful years, the MTA will still need to identify another $1B to close the full, projected $16B deficit through 2024.

The federal government must step in to provide the MTA billions in emergency aid. The MTA cannot cut its way out of its deficit without delivering a severe, long-term, blow to the NYC, NYS and national economy. With our transit colleagues we continue to press Congress to rescue the MTA from a fiscal calamity that will crush NYC, and turn it from an engine of the national economy and number one donor-state to the federal government into an agency living a hand-to-mouth existence. We thank the MTA for recently raising the warning that tens of thousands of jobs are at stake in MTA vendors across the country, which we also highlighted in our June report, Investing in the MTA is Investing in America.

The state must also do its part and deliver to the MTA all of its dedicated funding. It’s stunning that we even need to say this publicly to Albany at this time, but here we are: There should be no raids on MTA funds to make up for state general budget shortfalls. Currently state and MTA budget documents assume a $600 million raid on MTA funds. Two wrongs will not make a right, and this planned raid makes a mockery of the whole idea of “dedicated” funds. The MTA’s ridership is down 70% and independent fiscal analysts believe the MTA is in much worse shape than the state.

Lastly, we urge the MTA staff to publish the November financial plan well before the November Board meeting. Given the uncertainty with the national election, we ask that the MTA board consider voting on the 2021 budget in December, which is traditional, and when the political picture will be clearer. Thank you for your time.