Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1302 Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:18:01 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The Mayor’s Best Argument on Transit System Funding http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7107:the-mayor-s-best-argument-on-transit-system-funding http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7107:the-mayor-s-best-argument-on-transit-system-funding de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor's Office)


Governor Cuomo’s declaration of a state emergency after the Harlem subway derailment in June offered hope to suffering transit riders because it was an acknowledgement there was a crisis and the Governor was taking responsibility for addressing it.

An emergency declaration in New York law requires an affected agency to develop plans to deal with whatever disaster the Governor has declared. After a review, new MTA Chair Joseph Lhota  proposed to spend an additional $450 million in maintenance programming and $380 million in capital investments to reduce delays and breakdowns. The Governor and Lhota also are seeking half the new money from New York City, reigniting public rancor between the Governor and Mayor de Blasio and raising anew the question of responsibility for the transit system between the State and the City.

Both the State and the City have billions of dollars in reserve funds available now and can afford to make the contributions. Whether de Blasio makes a decision to contribute to the plan or not, an understanding of who is paying for the transit system at this time is essential.

The basic facts are that the City and its suburbs already pay virtually all of the MTA’s costs, either directly or indirectly.

The budget adopted by the MTA for 2017 reports that 57%, more than $4.5 billion, of New York City Transit’s costs are paid by the fares from riders of the subway and bus systems. The next largest amount, about $3.5 billion, came from a group of dedicated taxes which, although imposed by the State, are levied within the 12-county MTA region, and not in the rest of the State.

These dedicated taxes include a payroll tax, a corporate profits tax, a sliver of the sales tax, the New York City real estate transfer tax, and others. The New York City government directly contributes $362 million to New York City Transit, including a required match of a corresponding State subsidy, as well as reimbursements for paratransit, students, and the elderly. New York City Transit also receives a cross-subsidy from excess cash available from the tolls of the Bridge and Tunnel system of $287 million.

The State’s General Fund provides about $356 million, including a contribution to compensate for a cut in 2011 of an unpopular payroll tax enacted within the region during the recession. While these funds derive from the general taxes of the State, a Rockefeller Institute study in 2011 reported that New York City and its suburbs were paying 72% of the State’s tax revenue in 2009, and that study did not reflect the fact that most economic growth in the State has occurred downstate since then.

The bottom line is that this all means that only about 1% of New York City Transit’s operating funds come from outside the MTA region.

All these resources together don’t just fund the operating budget, they also pay for the debt service on the tens of billions of dollars the MTA borrowed to pay for the capital programs of prior years as well as the ongoing borrowing  for the new one. About $1.3 billion a year goes to pay interest on debt associated with New York City Transit from these flows of funds, with another $250 million a year covering New York City Transit-related debt from Bridge and Tunnel toll surpluses.

The New York City government also pays substantial subsidies to other parts of the MTA system.

It provides $460 million a year to MTA Bus, the express bus system taken over by the MTA during the Bloomberg Administration; $58 million for the Staten Island Railway; and $98 million for station maintenance for Long Island Railroad and Metro North facilities that are within the City.

New York City also pays the cost of the New York Transit Police, more than 3,000 police officers who patrol the subways and other mass transit facilities. The Police Department budget is $10 billion a year, meaning the 10% of the police force committed to safety in mass transit costs the City roughly $1 billion a year. This large level of support is barely reflected at all in the MTA or New York City Transit budgets. Embedded within the State and City budgets are payments for interest on bonds issued by State and City government for the benefit of mass transit, with $301 million paid by the City and $180 million by the State, according to a 2015 report by the New York City Comptroller.

Commuter rail system support is comparable to New York City Transit. Fares, excess cash from Bridge and Tunnel tolls, and dedicated tax revenues collected from the suburban counties around the City pay the costs of Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad. The commuter rail systems receive more generous subsidies from Bridge and Tunnel tolls than New York City Transit, about $400 million a year compared to $287 million a year. Long Island Railroad fares contribute only 47% of the costs of that system, compared to 57% for New York City Transit and 59% for Metro-North. Money from the General Fund of the State contributes just a very small portion of the commuter rail budget, just like New York City Transit. The MTA Police patrol the commuter rail system, and the costs are included within the commuter rail system budgets.

Governor Cuomo has said that the State was adding a historic level of funding to the current MTA capital budget, the 2015-19 capital plan. There is but a scintilla of truth to that pronouncement. That is because, of the $8.3 billion claimed to be committed, sources for $7 billion of the contribution have yet to be identified, and the State law providing the support says the State does not have to come up with the $7 billion until the MTA exhausts all its own resources first, with a deadline of 2025 for the State’s $7 billion to be found.

Even when the State finally comes up with the money, it will likely come from the MTA region, either through some form of congestion pricing or a diversion of some current tax receipts from the region. The City’s $2.5 billion promised contribution to the plan, part of a deal with the State, is to be paid on a schedule concurrent with the State’s schedule, and the City’s own budget does not forecast its contribution being paid until after 2019.

If the Mayor wants the public to understand why the City won’t contribute further funds to the MTA, he needs to clearly explain that the City’s residents and businesses already cover the costs.

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Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter @JimBrennanNY.

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The Mayor’s Best Argument on Transit System Funding Thu, 03 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 12-16 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5936:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-october-12-16 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5936:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-october-12-16 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday October 16

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio and former Mayor David Dinkins at the ceremony naming The David N. Dinkins Municipal Building, via The Mayor's Office; Hillary Clinton and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at a protest rally in Las Vegas before the Democratic presidential debate, via Pedro Julio Serrano

BdB Dinkins via mayors office

HRC MMV

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. MTA Funding Deal: This past Saturday, after months of debate, city and state officials reached a deal over funding for the MTA’s capital plan. New York City will pay an additional $2.5 billion, while the state will contribute $8.3 billion to meet what was the outstanding need of the $26 billion plan to expand and repair the MTA system over the next five years. As part of the deal, the state cannot divert funds from the capital plan, as the state has repeatedly removed money from the MTA budget in the past. Questions remain, however, over how the state and the city plan to pay for their shares - Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said his conference won’t support new taxes to pay for the commitment and questioned new borrowing. De Blasio’s team is expected to outline its plans as part of a reworked capital budget in 2016.

2. De Blasio’s First Town Hall: Mayor de Blasio held the first town hall of his mayoralty in Washington Heights on Wednesday evening. The mayor took questions from a crowd of about 250 during the two-hour town hall with a focus on rent security and tenant protection. The town hall seems to be part of a shifting strategy for public interaction that began in late August, when Mayor de Blasio began making more appearances on TV and radio shows, as well as more formal in-person outreach to New Yorkers.

3. Cuomo Team Returns to Puerto Rico: A delegation of New York State officials led by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul returned to Puerto Rico this week in an attempt to help the territory deal with its debt and health care crises. The delegation included Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson, and Assemblymembers Marco Crespo and Richard Gottfried. Cuomo led the first delegation to Puerto Rico about a month ago.

4. De Blasio to Israel: The mayor headed to Israel late Thursday to deliver a keynote address at the annual Conference of Mayors, where he will speak on the topic “Anti-Semitism in the West: How Cities Must Lead.” During the three-day trip, Mayor de Blasio will meet with Palestinians at a bilingual school in Jerusalem, a break from his predecessors, who only met with Israelis while visiting Israel in the past - though mayor won’t be meeting with official representatives of the Palestinian government. Questions remain around the private funding of de Blasio’s trip.

5. Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force: Governor Cuomo's "Common Core Task Force" met for the first time Friday. The panel, made up of 15 educators, lawmakers, and business leaders, could suggest overhauling the Common Core standards in New York. Governor Cuomo announced a ‘total reboot’ of Common Core was necessary after roughly 20 percent of state students opted not to take standardized tests aligned with the tougher standards. On a related note, earlier in the week, the State Assembly education committee held a meeting on the state's most struggling schools. After Friday's meeting the Common Core Task Force announced plans for at least a dozen public forums and that it had appointed its first "student ambassador." [From September 29 when the task force had just been announced: Absent from Cuomo's New Education Task Force: A Student]

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • $1.67 million in unclaimed funds have been returned to the city after Public Advocate Letitia James led a push for the city to recover money from New York’s unclaimed funds registry, which found that the city had more than 2,000 accounts with unclaimed funds.
  • $174,000is outgoing Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson’s new judicial salary, which he intends to collect in addition to his pension, which is estimated could be as much as $142,000 per year, according to The New York Post.
  • 41 months in federal prison for former Rikers correction officer Austin Romain for accepting over $11,000 in bribes as part of a scheme to distribute marijuana to Rikers inmates.
  • 3 states, 8 people, and over $100,000 in illegal weapons were involved in a gun-running ring busted by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. 112 guns were sold to an undercover police officer during the year-long investigation into the gun-smuggling ring.
  • 11-year difference between the life expectancy of residents of Brooklyn’s impoverished Brownsville neighborhood and the residents of Manhattan’s more affluent financial district.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, who this week had the Manhattan Municipal Building renamed in his honor.
  • It was a bad week for Wendell Walters, former assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, who was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for accepting $2.5 million in bribes.

THE FLASH:

  • Around this time 103 years ago, on October 14, 1912, then-presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a Manhattan man while campaigning in Milwaukee. He went on with a scheduled speech despite his wound.
  • Around this time three years ago, on October 16, 2012, the FBI arrested Mohammed Nafis for plotting to detonate a 1,000 pound car bomb in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Around this time last year, on October 14, 2014, Mayor de Blasio kicked off two Hurricane Sandy-related employment programs in Queens as a means to better connect residents with jobs and training programs in the storm-ravaged Rockaways.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

The Mayor's Media Blitz, by Ben Max

Reform Proposals Fly as Panel Evaluates Ethics Watchdog, by Samar Khurshid

Measuring the Mayor’s Education Agenda, by Kaela Sanborn-Hum

Albany Transparency and the MTA Funding Deal: Show Us Our Money, by John Kaehny (opinion)

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

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NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

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by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

Note: this article has been updated

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 12-16 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 15:31:18 +0000