Cuomo Nickel-and-Dimes Transit Riders While Heaping $564 Million on the Van Wyck

The final budget deal in Albany breaks a promise the governor made to transit riders in 2011.

Cuomo's budget goes to extraordinary lengths to skim from transit while covering the tracks.
Cuomo's budget goes to extraordinary lengths to skim from transit while covering the tracks.

The Albany budget deal reached over the weekend makes it official: Governor Cuomo has broken his promise to make up for cuts to the MTA payroll tax in 2011. While the state shrinks its commitment to the MTA, other Cuomo economic development priorities are moving ahead, including an expansion of the Van Wyck budgeted for $564 million.

The final deal allocates $244 million from the state’s general fund to the MTA operating budget, $65 million less than last year. That amount was supposed to be fixed at $320 million when Cuomo originally cut the payroll tax six years ago.

After advocates called out the governor’s cut, legislators added $65 million to the MTA’s capital program, and that provision is in the final budget. Cuomo spokesperson Jon Weinstein has been berating advocates for not counting this as a win, but Riders Alliance director John Raskin points to two reasons why this budget is a step backward for transit riders:

  • The $320 million was a recurring contribution that has now been reset at a lower level. The $65 million for the capital program is a one-off payment.
  • More importantly, there’s no reason to believe the $65 million is actually an increase in the state’s contribution to the capital program. That’s because the state makes other direct payments to the capital program but does not specify the size of these payments at the time the budget is passed, Raskin says. The size of these other payments could be adjusted to offset the “addition” of $65 million — Cuomo’s MTA budget dance is so opaque there’s no way to tell.

What’s remarkable here, more than the amount in question, is that the Cuomo administration goes to such lengths to skim from the MTA and cover its tracks.

At a time when the transit system is straining under a huge pile of debt and deteriorating service is starting to repel riders, the governor should be going all out to expand core subway capacity and speed up bus service.

Instead Cuomo is nickel-and-diming transit riders while heaping hundreds of millions on highway expansion.


No matter how bad the service gets, transit riders will always have these USB ports.

Cuomo Breaks Another Promise to Transit Riders

Five years ago, Cuomo promised to allocate $320 million annually to the MTA to make up for cutting one of the agency's dedicated revenue streams. At the time, advocates warned that Cuomo wouldn't keep his promise for long. They were right: This year the governor's draft budget calls for a $65 million cut to MTA funding.

Sooner or Later, the Cuomo Fare Hike Is Coming

Earlier this week, Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff crunched the numbers to see what could happen if Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t follow through on his pledge to restore the $320 million in MTA funding cuts he signed into law on Monday. The cost to commuters, the economy, and public health, he found, could substantially outweigh the […]