No MTA bailout agreement, budget deficit grows $621M

Just when you thought things could not get worse for the cash-strapped MTA, they got a lot worse – $621 million worse.

The agency announced on Monday, April 27, that after re-forecasting its annual revenues factoring in the approved fare hike and service reductions it approved in March, it now has an additional $621 million in projected deficits for 2009 and a $1.02 billion gap for 2010.

“The budget that was passed in December assumed large decreases in revenue, but we now know that the reality is even worse,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. “With this re-forecast in hand we have begun identifying ways to fill the new gap, but there are no easy solutions.”

The MTA announcement on Monday focused even more attention on Albany, where legislators are trying to come up with a plan that would raise additional revenue for the MTA so it would not have to implement the fare hikes and service cuts.

Much of that spotlight is on the State Senate, which on Tuesday, April 28, moved their own plan that includes raising initial fares on taxis by $1 from the Transportation Committee to the Rules Committee. It is still unclear if the Senate plan, which many legislators and pundits have panned as not doing enough to close the MTA gaps, has enough votes to pass.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said on Monday that there are always going to be things that people don’t like with the plans, but he is committed to getting a plan that can muster 32 votes to pass the Senate.

“We are left with a mess, and now we have to try to correct it in a short period of time,” Smith told reporters.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who proposed his own plan earlier this year that included implementing $2 tolls on the free East and Harlem River Bridges, would be willing to look at a bill that the Senate passed.

If Albany does not reach a deal to save the MTA, the organization would likely have to take further actions that could include additional job and service cuts.

Already, single-ride fares on buses and subways will increase to $2.50 on Sunday, May 31, with the monthly MetroCard costing $103, up from $81. Fares on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro North commuter lines will rise roughly 23 percent the next day, unless there is an agreement.

In addition, Queens residents who ride Q14, 26, 31, 74, 75, 76, 79 and 84 bus lines would also see reductions or elimination in service.

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