Kruger and the M.T.A., Again

ALBANY—Here we go again.

The M.T.A.’s top financial official told the authority’s board that a payroll tax–passed in May to avoid fare hikes and service cuts–is not providing as much revenue as projected, by about $200 million.  That comes on top of a $143 million sweep of M.T.A. funding in the just-enacted deficit reduction bill. In short, the authority needs money.

So State Senator Carl Kruger, the chairman of that chamber’s Finance Committee, put out a statement late yesterday that is a mixture of denial and M.T.A.-bashing. Here it is:

“Our ability to budget is only as good as our ability to forecast. We were dependent upon data supplied by the Office of Management and Budget with the understanding that it was verified by the MTA’s own fiscal staff.

“Furthermore, our projections were based on the fiscal year rather than the calendar year. This critical point should have been taken into account when the MTA fiscal staff developed its parameters.

“It is my shared belief that the payroll tax will ‘kick in’ when the dust settles and smaller employers start making their mandatory contributions. It may not happen in the calendar year, but it will happen in the fiscal year. Since our cuts were calculated on a pro rata basis for the fiscal year and not the calendar year, for the MTA to charge its books with a cut of $143 million in the calendar year obviously has a more severe impact than spreading it out over the fiscal year.

“It is my hope that the MTA will not create an atmosphere of confusion or a needless sense of unrest over what appears to be self-adjusting bookkeeping issues. We all recognize that shortfalls are real and that expenditures are exceeding revenues. That is why we’re addressing the situation in this manner.

“I look forward to discussing with MTA Chair/CEO Jay Walder ways that the MTA can better serve our community and become a stronger partner in developing new avenues of revenue, savings and cuts without affecting the riding public during these difficult economic times.”

This has become Kruger’s shtick, and a fact of life in Albany. It was principally Kruger who hamstrung the Senate in the spring and prevented the chamber from enacting an M.T.A. package that included bridge tolls–a balanced approach favored by a broad coalition, and StreetsBlog, too, smells a reprise.