Cuomo and de Blasio Bury Hatchet in MTA Funding Fight

Bill de Blasio agreed to give Andrew Cuomo $2.5 billion for the MTA in exchange for the promise of more input and no raids on the budget.

Cuomo and de Blasio
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images) (Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are railsplitters no more.

The fractious Democrats agreed this morning to a deal that would obligate Mr. de Blasio to give the governor much of the funding he wanted for Metropolitan Transportation Authority construction and maintenance in exchange for a promise of greater input and a vow from Mr. Cuomo that he would not raid the authority’s budget for other state purposes. The agreement came after weeks and months of bitter bickering that followed after Cuomo-appointed MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast penned a letter to the mayor asking for $3.2 billion dollars on the eve of Mr. de Blasio’s executive budget roll-out—which was widely interpreted as a political effort to undermine the mayor’s ability to set the city’s spending priorities.

“The MTA is the lifeblood of New York, helping millions of people travel throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs, and fueling one of the largest economies on the globe,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement, noting how the five year capital plan would fund new buses, new subway cars, platform repair plus projects like the Second Avenue Subway and Metro North stops in the Bronx. “This plan will mean a safer, stronger, more reliable transit system for people all over New York, and is crucial in supporting our growing economy. And this program would not have been possible without everyone stepping up to pay their fair share.

Under the agreement, the city will agree to pay in $2.5 billion in exchange for a promise that the MTA would consult the four members of its board appointed at the recommendation of the mayor (the governor appoints the entire 23-member board, though unions and localities recommend representatives) specifically about construction and maintenance projects in the five boroughs, and consult the members from suburban areas about work in the surrounding counties. The state’s contribution will remain at the planned $8.3 billion, and the cost of the whole plan has been reduced from $30 billion to $26 billion, with the MTA promising to find ways to save money and incorporate private dollars.

Of the city’s contribution, $1.9 million will come from tax revenues, while the other $600 million will come from non-tax sources.

Mr. de Blasio had repeatedly complained that Mr. Cuomo had in the past taken money out of the MTA budget and placed it into the state’s general fund—an allegation that the governor earlier this week called “a joke.” But when the kidding was over, the mayor secured a promise that the governor would not re-allocate the MTA money to other purposes.

“Our transit system is the backbone of New York City’s, and our entire region’s, economy. That is why we’re making an historic investment—the city’s largest ever general capital contribution—while ensuring that NYC dollars stay in NYC transit, and giving NYC riders and taxpayers a stronger voice,” the mayor said.

However, the agreement does include a proviso that would permit the governor to divert funds if he declares a fiscal emergency and secures permission from the Assembly and State Senate.

It is unclear if the deal represents a turning point in the relationship between the two men. Mr. de Blasio worked under Mr. Cuomo at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, and the two for years claimed to be friends.

But since Mr. de Blasio entered Gracie Mansion in 2014, Mr. Cuomo has used his state powers to undermine a number of the mayor’s more liberal initiatives, including charging charter schools rent for the use of public space and raising taxes on the wealthy. After a conflict earlier this year over the extension of the 421a tax abatement for developers and the extension of mayoral control, Mr. de Blasio went on television to accuse the governor of having a “vendetta” against him.

Cuomo and de Blasio Bury Hatchet in MTA Funding Fight