Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Assemblyman Dinowitz Passes Critical Legislation Strengthening 'Transit Lockbox'

  State Assembly passes legislation that would prohibit the diversion of public transit funding without express legislative consent, a problem which has long plagued the transit systems such as the MTA and their ability to manage debt.

  Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) today announced passage of legislation to require funding dedicated to public transportation systems (including the MTA) be used for their intended purpose. The bill would also require any legislation that diverts public transportation funding to include a diversion impact statement which reflects the amount of the diversion from each fund listed separately, the amount diverted expressed as current monthly transit fares, the cumulative amount of diversion from the previous five years, and a detailed estimate of the impact on service, maintenance, security, and current capital program.

For many years, the MTA has seen their operational costs increasingly used to pay debt service. The MTA’s debt service payments have grown from essentially nothing in the early 1980’s to over $2.5 billion in 2018. Despite this increasing cost burden siphoning much-needed resources away from a subway system in crisis, the MTA and other transportation systems have remained a frequent target of Governors who wish to use dedicated taxes to support transit projects to cover budgetary shortfalls in unrelated areas. The diverted funds are then replaced with bonds or loans that are backed by these same taxes, further adding to the existing debt burden.

Assemblyman Dinowitz has championed this bipartisan and common-sense legislation with State Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), resurrecting the bill as the MTA is once again in a state of crisis. A similar bill was vetoed by Governor Cuomo in 2013. Transit and good government advocates have hailed the legislation as a much-needed salve of transparency which will both hold the Governor and Legislature accountable when it comes to adequately funding public transportation systems in New York State. The bill (A8511) now moves to the State Senate, where it passed unanimously in June of 2013.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) said: “As we examine every way to raise dedicated and sustainable revenue for mass transit in New York, it has become increasingly clear that we need to ensure that our promises to straphangers remain kept. If the people of New York are expected to continue paying increased fares and new taxes or fees to fix our subways and buses, then they should be confident that this money is being spent in the right place. I am proud of my colleagues for supporting this bill, and urge Governor Cuomo change his decision from several years ago by signing this bill into law.”

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