By Philip Newman
The New York State budget, replete with tax advantages for businesses and taxpayers but helpless against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ability to dip into $30 million earmarked for mass transit, has passed the state Legislature and is now a done deal.
Transit activists were not comforted by the fact that the $40 million kitty meant for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had lost $30 million to the governor and was shorn of its hands-off status.
Seven transit activist organizations said the governor’s move to raid the transit fund could mean higher fares and few improvements for the city’s bus and subway riders.
“Sadly, our elected officials have sent a clear message that they can and will use the MTA as a piggy bank, siphoning dollars out of the pockets of transit riders,” the transit groups said.
The transit activists thanked two Brooklyn legislators in particular for fighting for the cause of straphangers — Democratic state Assemblyman James Brennan and Republican state Sen. Martin Golden — as well as the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian caucuses.
But the transit advocates also pointed out that “despite budget resolutions by both houses that removed Gov. Cuomo’s ill-conceived raid on dedicated transit funds, the House and Senate failed to protect transit riders.”
Gene Russianoff, attorney for the transit advocacy group Straphangers Campaign, and Riders Alliance said that the tens of millions of dollars set aside in the fund to improve transit could have ushered in a new era for transit riders, who now face fare increases and service cuts.
In October, the MTA is scheduled to present its five-year capital plan to the Legislature to cover an estimated gap of at least $15 billion for repairs to the transit system.
The transit agency will also be getting ready to hold hearings on the fifth fare increase in six years.
The budget has a number of breaks for taxpayers, including for the first time one for renters.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 718-260-4536.