Memo of Opposition – Governor’s MTA Proposal to Separate Chair/CEO, with no Senate Confirmation of CEO



A8035 (Paulin)/S7233 (Savino) – At Request of Governor

Splits current leadership job into separate MTA Chair and CEO positions, removes senate confirmation of CEO

An act to amend the public authorities law, in relation to the authority and responsibility of the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority; and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating thereto.

Section 1 of the bill would amend paragraph (a) of subdivision 4 of section 1263 of the Public Authorities Law to separate the positions of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Section 2 of the bill would repeal paragraph (d) of subdivision 4 of section 1263 of the Public Authorities Law to remove the proscription barring the Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from participating in establishing authority policies regarding payment of salary and time and attendance for the Chief Executive Officer.

Section 3 sets the effective date as immediate.

The MTA has been suffering from a dire crisis of public confidence since Governor Cuomo politicized the authority and undertook a confusing and sporadic transformation plan. The legislature should not approve last-minute, backroom changes to the MTA governance structure. The legislature of 2021 is considering hastily undoing a much-touted reform that was adopted through a highly public process in 2009 to merge the Chair and CEO positions. On this issue, the legislature would be plunging backwards into the bad old Albany days of transactional politics with no time for public debate or thoughtful vetting.

We strongly oppose this legislation because it would return to a failed system of MTA governance with a split CEO and chair who are both appointed by the Governor. This arrangement was widely viewed as ineffective from 2006-2009. Further, it would diminish the oversight powers of the Legislature by removing the position of the CEO—who manages the MTA’s $17 billion budget and is responsible for ensuring the trains and buses run for millions of riders—from Senate confirmation. In a governance system where the Governor controls the MTA, Senate confirmation of this key position provides an important check and balance that would now be removed.

The 2008 “Ravitch Commission” was charged with making recommendations to provide sustainable funding for the MTA and improve its governance after problems with the separated chair and CEO positions, which the Commission called “ill-advised.” The high-profile Ravitch Commission held public hearings and solicited comments from experts and MTA stakeholders.

The Ravitch report recommended that an independent chair nominated by the board lead it — what is considered a best practice for corporate boards in the private sector and non-profits given strong lines of accountability. Jay Walder was ultimately appointed by Governor David Paterson as the new reunified Chairman/CEO in September 2009 after a public hearing by the Senate in which members of the public could testify about his nomination and their views about the MTA.

In dismal contrast, this legislation would seek to nullify the work done in 2008 and 2009 as part of the end-of-session negotiations at the direction of the Governor with little debate by legislators, no meaningful time for public input, and no public hearings dedicated to the topic for stakeholders to weigh in.

In sum, we urge members of the Legislature to VOTE NO.

Groups in opposition:

Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled
Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY
Common Cause NY
Disabled In Action of Metropolitan NY
NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign
Reinvent Albany
Rise and Resist Elevator Action Group
Tri-State Transportation Campaign