In Letter, Montesano Calls On State To Halt MTA Tax Windfall

July 27, 2010

Assemblyman Michael Montesano (R,I,C- Glen Head) today called on state leaders to put the brakes on further taxpayer-funded payments to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) until it submits to a complete forensic audit. In separate letters to the governor, MTA inspector general and state comptroller, Montesano urged the impoundment of further state aid unless the authority agreed to undergo the transparent appraisal of its broken finances set out in legislation the lawmaker introduced this year.

The troubled transit agency is at the center of a recent controversy involving “phantom overtime” – in 2010 alone, $34 million in public funds will go to pay vacationing or absent MTA employees – and has so far been unsuccessful in plugging an $800 million budget gap, despite a dedicated .34 percent payroll tax imposed on many Nassau County businesses and nonprofits as part of an ill-considered 2009 bailout. According to estimates provided by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office shortly after the MTA payroll tax was passed in April 2009, Nassau County residents, school districts, not-for-profit hospitals and small businesses can expect to fork over at least $122 million more each year in levies. The new revenue stream has not been enough to balance the MTA’s books, however, resulting in the recent hiring of a “consolidation czar” with an annual taxpayer-funded salary of $217,000.

“Nassau County sends approximately $40 million back to the MTA’s loose pockets every three months, with nothing more than higher fares, more expensive parking permits, and crowded trains to show for it – the authority may even go ahead with the elimination of one of the largest suburban bus systems in the country,” said Montesano. “Long Islanders cannot continue to bail out a broken agency; we need to enforce my comprehensive forensic audit today. I have contacted Governor Paterson and state regulators in order to demand that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority receive no further tax revenues until a nonpartisan Fiscal Oversight Control Board can establish the transit agency’s true finances in order to rein in out-of-control waste and inefficiencies.

“New York State is broke. We ended the last fiscal quarter in debt for only the second time in modern history – the first was a mere seven months ago,” said Montesano. “By providing the MTA with new funding we are not only redistributing income from Nassau County to other parts of the state, but decreasing the likelihood that this public authority will ever be held accountable to taxpayers. No more taxation without rehabilitation: the MTA must undergo a forensic audit today.”