MTA Chairman Jay Walder said at this morning’s Crain’s Business Breakfast Forum that he is staying out of the November elections
Panel members from Crain’s and the New York Times asked if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo’s remarks that we “need a total overhaul of the MTA” had led to conversations with Cuomo.
“No. I have had no conversation with any candidate,” Walder said, joking that he only had to avoid them for 20 more days in order to stay out of the election process.
The MTA depends greatly on who is in charge in Albany, a fact Walder is aware of. Earlier in the same talk he pinned the MTA’s staggering deficit on tax cuts instituted by the legislature and declining investment.
When the panelists pointed to other New York City public services who successfully lobby in Albany, like the hospital union Local 1199, Walder said that the MTA will “always rely on public support,” but the questions of where to lay the tax burden are outside his job description. Rather, his aim is to present a better product to Albany so “we can look Albany in the eye and say we’re using every dollar wisely.”
Effective lobbying would require the collaboration of the Transit Workers Union Local 100, who ripped into Walder last year for vacationing in South France while laying off workers.
Today, Walder emphasized that laying off hardworking employees was “extremely painful,” but added that his “inability to partner with the unions” has been the “biggest disappointment” of his time as chairman.
So far, Walder’s strategy to improve the MTA product has been to cut costs and, recently, raise fares in order to avoid service cuts. Cost cutting measures include 3,500 hundred layoffs, reduced overtime, and consolidation of MTA offices like IT, HR, and comunications. He said this morning that the MTA has a four-year financial plan to trim $500 milion off the annual budget without any more service cuts.