MTA’s Proposed Budget Shows A 43% Increase!

According to an article in this past Friday’s Daily News, the MTA’s proposed budget for 2008 will feature a 43% increase in spending compared to the 2004 budget. Here is the entire article courtesy of the New York Daily News as part of their “Halt The Hike” campaign:

Spending by the fare-hike-minded MTA is on track to soar 43% over the 2004 budget, authority fiscal documents show.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed budget for next year totals $10.8 billion, up from $7.5 billion just four years ago.

Currently, the MTA wants fares and toll hikes to trim future budget gaps that transit officials and rider advocates agree primarily stem from years of inadequate state funding. The MTA borrowed heavily and its debt payments have nearly doubled.

But some also call the MTA a willing victim that failed to aggressively seek more operating budget funds from the governor and state Legislature, and also has been inefficient.

“When the MTA leadership allowed former Gov. Pataki to saddle the system with excessive debt, they effectively steered the MTA budget train off the tracks,” said James Parrott, Fiscal Policy Institute deputy director.

State Controller Thomas DiNapoli pointed at in-depth reviews by his office that highlighted where the MTA could achieve savings by trimming its workforce and consolidating operations. The authority’s divisions, including NYC Transit and two railroads, each have their own departments for legal, payroll, purchasing and other duties.

A Daily News review of the 2004 and proposed 2008 budgets found the following spending increases: debt service up $681 million, or 80%; payroll up $796 million, 24%; overtime $90 million, 25%; professional service contracts, often consultants, up $60 million, or 33%.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said that “uncontrollable costs” such as debt payments, pensions and worker health care, had increased by 73%.

The manageable costs, such as salaries and wages, rose a combined 29%.

“Expenses under the MTA’s control have been kept close to inflation and are driven by contractual wage increases and improved service, post-9/11 security costs and increased maintenance,” Soffin said.

The MTA had 63,300 workers in 2004. The number of positions in the proposed budget for next year is 70,369.

Soffin said about half the additional positions are held by workers employed by the MTA Bus Co., which comprises seven formerly private bus companies.

The MTA board votes on the budget, including Gov. Spitzer’s fare hike plan, next month.

Not even the biggest fans of the MTA can deny that they are partially their own worst enemy. Actually a more accurate statement might be they are mostly to blame for the financial state they are in. I don’t think I have ever seen an agency get raped financially by the government like the MTA does. The sad part is for the last 10+ years they seemed to willingly participate in the festivities as a willing participant. Thankfully we have some new blood looking to put an end to this culture although they sure not given a nice hand to start with.

Speaking of fans or should I say non fans, I caught the comment left in the feedback section on the Daily News’ page for this article. The reader who goes by “Calico” sure gave a piece of his mind. Take a look at his response to the article:

So when is MTA going to stop mismanaging public funds? When is MTA going to scrutinize what they pay for ($8 for a black plastic garbage bag, $8 for a 100 watt bulb). When is MTA going to stop paying for the purchase of defective and faulty equipment that has to be dismantled, repaired and reassembled at the taxpayers’ expense?

When is MTA going to pay the same as other cities for the aluminum frames that hold the bus window glass? Right now, NYC MTA pays about $150 for the same aluminum window frames that other cities pay about $39 to $49 for… WHY? Doesn’t anyone scrutinize and question what MTA is being billed for and compare prices? Why are there so many petty supervisors and managers riding around in City paid limos? Shall I continue…?

I would love to read more from this individual as they definitely have some strong comments about the MTA.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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