New York City, State Haven't Shown MTA The Money

A report from NYC’s Independent Budget Office (IBO) released last week indicates that City and State financial aid to the fiscally strapped MTA has remained stagnant since the mid-1990s. In fact, while the MTA takes in more from fares, tolls, and dedicated taxes than it used to, state and city subsidies have fallen when inflation is taken into account.

The report clears up some discrepancies over how much aid goes to the MTA. Mayor Bloomberg indicated that the City gave $1.2 billion to the MTA between July 2007 and June 2008. However, the MTA’s July budget plan lists only $858 million in total government subsidies from New York state, NYC, and Connecticut ($87 million for the Metro-North New Haven line). The Mayor’s figure, it turns out, includes some funds that are not true subsidies – such as money the city is repaying the MTA for a 1990s-era loan.

As the graph shows, inflation-adjusted city and state aid has fallen since 1990. The report also shows that some types of aid, such as general operating assistance from NYC, have not been increased since 1995. The largest increase in MTA revenues has come from dedicated taxes, one of which is the real estate transfer tax. NYC’s real estate market soared through the early part of this decade but has since declined.

The importance of the IBO report is that it provides the public with a benchmark by which to gauge future investment to transit from the City and State. But it is also important because it is an independent analysis of the MTA that shows that the agency indeed has cause to ask for increased government aid. This type of third-party analysis can help the MTA shore up its public credibility, which is one reason that the Straphangers Campaign has argued for the creation of an MTA Independent Budget Office.

Image: From IBO report.

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