Statement From Andrew Raia On Assembly’s MTA Bailout

LIRR fares, businesses’ taxes would rise, reform of MTA board side-tracked
May 7, 2009

“Last night, I stood up for Long Island commuters and the small businesses which serve them and voted against the Assembly’s bailout proposal for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA),” said Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,I,C-East Northport). “The bill would levy a new, 34-cent payroll tax on small businesses, non-profits including hospitals, and school districts, nearly 40 percent more than what had been proposed as recently as this week by Governor Paterson and legislative leaders. But the MTA isn’t just using our schools as an ATM; libraries, ambulance services and fire departments would have to pay 34 cents on every $100 in payroll, too. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in new expenses, with no way to make up the difference except in higher property taxes or cuts to services and suspension of projects. Meanwhile, commuters on the Long Island Rail Road will have to pay 10 percent more per ticket this year, with a 7.5 percent rise set for 2011 and 2013. During an economic recession, when many Long Islanders count on public transportation to aid them in job searches or to save money on rising gas prices, a fare hike is an irresponsible decision and an affront to the millions of riders the MTA serves every day.

In recent weeks, as public outcry over the transit agency’s proposed May 31 fare hikes increased, I called for reform of the MTA’s leadership structure. A distant, unaccountable board of directors who neither use public transportation regularly nor open their organization’s financial books to independent audits cannot be trusted to control a service so many of us are required to use every weekday. However, rather than set term limits on MTA members or appoint a taskforce to monitor the agency’s frequent cost overruns in order to rein in its $1.6 billion deficit, Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith met behind closed doors in order to craft a bill to keep the MTA’s shameful status quo in place.

Our region does not need more taxes to fund a state agency which has slipped off the rails too many times. We already pay at least five taxes to the MTA. We do not need fare hikes during the worst economic recession in New York’s history. The authors of the MTA bailout cannot even explain which chunk of our money will build tracks and how much of the 10 percent increase will continue to build castles in the air for this agency’s accounting department. I agree with the Huntington Town Board’s assessment earlier this year: a failure to exempt fire, emergency-services, library districts and other municipal employers will force local governments to increase their own tax levies as a way to offset new costs. I voted against the MTA bailout because New York in general and Long Island in particular deserve a world-class transportation service. New taxes and reckless fare hikes only put working families farther down the road to ruin.”