Barring a major setback, Albany lawmakers will pass an on-time budget for the second consecutive year. Many vital details have emerged for transportation and sustainable development advocates.
The MTA Capital Plan
Following a Senate budget resolution that threatened to cripple the MTA’s Capital Program, lawmakers reached a deal to deliver $770 million in anticipated support and raise the agency’s bond cap by $7 billion. These crucial funds were requested in the MTA’s 2010-2014 Capital Program Amendment, and one source said that “this represents the greatest commitment to the MTA from a governor in recent history.”
Fair Distribution of Operating Assistance
The budget deal also redistributes transit-bolstering revenues from the corporate and utilities tax more fairly across the state. The tax, which previously only went to downstate systems, will now help fund transit statewide. Although Governor Cuomo’s budget proposed to permanently redistribute revenues, push-back from the Assembly meant that the budget deal only commits to redistribution for this fiscal year.
The NY Works Fund
Governor Cuomo’s proposed NY Works Fund took a little more shape through the budget, but not much. The state would establish a 15-member commission, the “New York Works Task Force,” with nine members and an executive director to be appointed by the governor (one appointee must represent organized labor). The Senate Majority leader and Assembly Speaker would each appoint two members, while the Senate Minority and Assembly Minority leaders would each appoint a non-voting member. By September 1st of each year, the commission would develop a coordinated capital infrastructure plan, addressing infrastructure projects from a variety of agencies. The plan would: 1) prioritize projects, 2) propose ways to fund them, and 3) recommend whether or not they should undergo an expedited permitting process.
Tappan Zee Transit
There were also disappointments for some advocates. There was no language in the budget that secured transit’s place on the Tappan Zee, despite a bipartisan call from Senator Bonacic (R-Mt. Hope) and Senator Dilan (D-Brooklyn).
The budget deal also does not consolidate the New York Department of Transportation’s 11 regional offices into six, as Governor Cuomo proposed. The measure would have streamlined the department, and TSTC has long advocated for such a change. Some legislators expressed concern about breaking existing relationships with regional offices.