Governor Andrew Cuomo released the new state budget today, and as expected, it was not pretty. There were cuts across the board, but one grouop who faced an atrocious 2010 escaped relatively unscathed. That would be straphangers.
After seeing the MTA cut to what felt like the bone last year, at the same time that monthly MetroCards broke the Ben Franklin-threshold, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the agency is only losing $100 million in operating funds, which is balanced out by a $100 million boost to its capital budget. The good news is, the MTA does not anticipate the need for further fare hikes or service cuts this year, per a release:
We understand that the State’s fiscal crisis requires sacrifice from every area funded by the State, including the MTA. Because the MTA has already taken unprecedented measures to reduce costs, finding an additional $100 million in 2011 will be very painful, especially with sizable deficits still projected for 2012 and 2014. As we continue cost-cutting, further reductions become harder and harder to achieve.
But we must fill this gap, and we will fill it without resorting to fare and toll increases or service cuts, because our riders have already been hit with these painful measures over the past year. Instead, we will work to find additional cost-savings through efficiencies and improved productivity throughout our company. We are hopeful that this year we can work with our labor unions to find productivity improvements that protect jobs even as we reduce costs.
The Straphanger’s Campaign called the budget “mostly good news” in a statement, and the group remains cautiously optimisitic: “The Straphangers Campaign and other groups will monitor the agency’s response closely to see that the transit system has adequate resources to provide safe, reliable, well-maintained, secure and clean service.”
It looks like mass transit advocates fears about the new governor are so-far unfounded.
Still, those lingering concerns are not unjustified, as the legislature has twice now cut into the MTA’s finances to fill gaps elsewhere in the budget. Hopefully MTA boss Jay Walder has done a good enough job convincing Albany he means business. Otherwise, the road ahead could get bumpy yet again.