Today, the New York State Assembly joined the New York State Senate in unanimously passing a lockbox bill that will make it harder for the state to divert funds dedicated to transit to fill gaps in the state’s general budget. While the bill cannot stop legislators from stealing funds dedicated to transit, the bill makes them more accountable for doing so by requiring them to report on the impact of diversions.
This diversion impact statement vastly improves the 2011 version of this bill, which also unanimously passed both houses of the New York State Legislature without any dissent. As seen during the 2013 budget season when $20M was diverted from the MTA, the 2011 version eliminated the impact statement requirements, making the legislation ineffective and toothless. Unlike the 2011 bill, the lockbox and impact statement applies to all funding for transit systems throughout New York State and not just the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
A bill with strict requirements for a public impact statement—detailing the amount of the diversion, its potential impact on transit riders, the total amount taken over the past five years and more— will do much more to shine light on a diversion process that, in recent history, led to the most severe service cuts in a generation. As the legislation makes its way to Governor Cuomo’s desk, all eyes are on him to ensure that time this around, history doesn’t repeat itself.