Raia Holds Press Conference To Rein In Sky-High MTA Salaries

Proposed ‘Fiscal Oversight Control Board’ would save taxpayers money, hold appointees accountable
June 30, 2009

Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,I,C-East Northport) today participated in a press conference with other members of the Long Island Assembly delegation in order to advocate for the creation of an “MTA Fiscal Oversight Control Board” as a way to increase the beleaguered public agency’s transparency and control its operating costs. Assemblyman Raia’s initiative for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority comes on the heels of MTA salary figures listed on SeeThroughNY.net, a project of the independent Empire Center for New York State Policy. The Web site is available to the public and lists the pay of government employees working in New York.

Information supplied by SeeThroughNY.net indicates that among the 78,393 employees on the MTA payroll in 2008 over 10 percent were paid $100,000 or more, including overtime. Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) chief Helena Williams is the wealthiest active member on the list. Since former CEO Elliot Sander stepped down in May following intense criticism surrounding his handling of the MTA’s finances, Williams has been both LIRR president and interim director of the public authority, taking home a whopping $285,711. According to the Empire Center’s figures, the median salary for MTA employees is about $74,000. Ten people made more than $250,000 in total take-home pay, averaging $102,000 over their base salaries.

On May 6 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was the recipient of a $2.29 billion taxpayer-funded bailout from the New York State Legislature, including a new multi-million-dollar payroll tax on small businesses and non-profits within its 12-county service area. Additionally, the MTA hiked daily ticket fares on its commuter trains earlier this month, including the LIRR, around 10 percent. Bridge and tunnel tolls are set to jump in price on July 10. The opacity of its budgetary decisions, as well as the public insulation of many top members such as Sander, led to calls from riders and taxpayers to audit the agency’s out-of-control expenses. Assemblyman Raia was one of the loudest early voices calling for reform of the MTA.

“The so-called leadership at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has both run out of excuses and time,” said Raia. “Long Islander commuters, small businesses, and working families are paying for the mistakes of a coddled, elite few. Instead of hiking fares on commuters and raising taxes after you’ve run your agency into bankruptcy, why not consider trimming some of these exorbitant salaries? The only way to ensure that cost-drivers like pricey salaries don’t drown public authorities in red ink is to hold the officials running them accountable. Our MTA Fiscal Oversight Control Board would keep these sky-high salaries in check and open up the agency’s balance sheet to public scrutiny. New Yorkers have already seen too many taxpayer-financed bailouts, from reckless Wall Street bankers to car companies manufacturers that can’t sell automobiles. We need to return accountability to the boardroom. The Fiscal Oversight Control Board is the right reform for change.”