Assembly Creates Independent Budget Office to Hold MTA Accountable

Reforms increase transparency and oversight of New York’s public authorities
November 18, 2009

Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid Island), Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-East Shore/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Matt Titone (D-North Shore) announced the Assembly passed public authority reforms today that will make the Metropolitan Transportation Authority accountable to a new, independent Authorities Budget Office (A.40012).

“Public authorities like the MTA have been allowed to operate under the radar for too long – at significant expense to taxpayers. The alarming lack of oversight has led to abuse that we simply can’t afford,” said Assemblyman Matt Titone (D-North Shore). “The accountability and transparency that this legislation will help achieve are long overdue to ensure that public authorities carry out their missions with the public interest at heart.”

The legislation creates a new Authorities Budget Office (ABO) within the Department of State to review and advise the operations, finances and practices of New York’s public authorities. The independent office has the power to issue subpoenas, publicly warn and censure authorities, and issue recommendations on debt and the suspension or dismissal of board members.

“Commuters and working families simply cannot afford another multi-billion dollar bailout of the MTA,” Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer said. “These reforms will go a long way to ensure the MTA properly manages its finances so that it will not need another taxpayer rescue in the future.”

The reforms establish additional layers of oversight for public authorities. The state comptroller will be required to pre-approve state authority contracts valued at over $1 million and authority boards must form finance committees to review debt issuance by an authority. Whistleblowers will also be granted additional protections and resources, encouraging public authority employees to report any wrongdoing.

“I am pleased that the management and practices of New York’s public authorities will be brought to light,” Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid Island) said. “This legislation will allow the public to know where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent and ensure that the money given to these authorities is not being mismanaged or misspent.”