Empire Center for
New York State Policy
for Policy Research
Fiscal Watch Memos
Payroll Watch Archive
August 28, 2012
Republican pols in New York’s downstate suburbs loudly celebrated last week’s court ruling tossing out a payroll tax enacted by the Legislature in 2009 to subsidize mass transit in the 12-county Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) region. But as Nicole Gelinas writes in today’s New York Post:
Their reaction … makes you wonder why we have state Republicans. Why are these supposed conservatives relying on one rogue judge to solve problems that elected lawmakers must solve themselves?
May 16, 2012
On Saturday, the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) got the terms of its new $47.5 million contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 3,000 bus drivers in Queens and Staten Island.
The agreement shows that arbitrators — who decide such things when both sides reach an impasse — remain unruffled by the financial, economic, and fiscal crises that have plagued the state over the past half-decade.
The verdict: Gov. Cuomo still needs to enact labor-negotiation reform. (more…)
April 26, 2012
Nicole Gelinas — Manhattan Institute senior fellow, City Journal contributing editor and frequent blogger here — wrote a tough column in the New York Post yesterday, criticizing Governor Cuomo’s nomination of former Governor David Paterson for appointment to an open seat on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board. The choice, Nicole said, was tantamount to “business-as-usual New York — on track to a crumbling transit system,” and she said Paterson deserved most of the blame for the disastrously costly contract arbitration award to the Transit Workers Union (TWU) in 2009.
Paterson took exception — and, to his credit, invited Nicole to discuss the issue on his live afternoon radio talk show on WOR-710 in New York City. The result is a fascinating 22-minute discussion (starting at the 5:10 mark of this link, downloadable as a podcast).
At the outset of the interview, the former governor said he actually agreed with one point in Nicole’s article: her contention that Paterson should have pushed to raise the transit workers’ retirement age, now 55 and untouched by Cuomo’s Tier 6 pension plan. But the former governor took strong exception to her assertion that he had failed to take a strong position against a raise for the TWU, claiming he had publicly opposed raises for any public sector workers during the 2008-09 fiscal crisis.
April 17, 2012
Manhattan beep and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer says he has a “bold plan” for the MTA. But beneath the fancy talk of an “infrastructure bank” and “dedicated revenue,” it’s the same old plan: more taxes. (more…)
September 30, 2011
The Local 100 Transport Workers Union (most of them work at the MTA) will join the “Occupy Wall Street” protest today at 4:00 in Zuccotti Park downtown.
There’s a bit of an irony in the location. The park is named for John Zuccotti. Zuccotti is the former deputy mayor who voted with the TWU in the last contract arbitration, awarding the workers 11.3 percent raises over the three years ending next January.
Moving right along, the bigger irony of a powerful transit union fighting big bankdom was best expressed here a few weeks ago, in a piece from London by Philip Stevens: (more…)
September 21, 2011
State comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has some numbers that shadow the MTA’s future.
On the five-year, $26.3 billion capital plan, DiNapoli notes:
The MTA has … proposed borrowing $14.8 billion–the largest amount in its history. … Debt service would reach $3.3 billion annually by 2018, or 64 percent more than in 2011, and would remain at that level through 2031. These estimates do not even consider the cost of the next capital program, which begins in 2015.
[E]ven if the MTA raises fares and tolls by 7.5 percent in 2013 and 2015 …, and raises them by the same amount in 2017, it could still face budget gaps that would grow from $600 million in 2016 to $1.2 billion by 2018.
Well, who cares? 2018 is a long way off, right? And things will magically fix themselves by then.
Problem is, the MTA ignored similar warnings eleven years ago, when it took on debt to fund an earlier capital program.
Annual debt service from that short-term decision crimps the operating budget today, forcing the MTA to raise yet more debt.
The MTA will struggle to shoulder its debt in the coming half-decade and beyond despite the fact that if the authority sticks with its fare-hike plan until 2015, fare increases will have clocked in at 66 percent since 2002, twice the inflation rate of 33 percent.
September 9, 2011
Fitch Ratings, the smallest of the big three credit agencies, has cut the rating on the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)’s $14.3 billion in debt that is backed by transportation revenues. Fitch dropped the rating from A+ to A.
One big problem? “Significant new debt” for the $23.8 billion capital plan, which will strain the operating budget for decades.
June 17, 2011
Nicole Gelinas has a piece in the New York Post today skewering state Senate Republicans for passing a bill that would repeal the payroll tax in the Metropolitan Transportation Region without offering a solid plan for closing the holes in the MTA operating and capital budgets. Her view is summed up in the headline: “State Senate’s pathetic posturing.”
Nicole writes: (more…)
June 7, 2011
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has released its “Freedom in the 50 States” index. New York is dead last overall, and last, too, on economic and fiscal freedom.
The report, by William Ruger of Texas State University and Jason Sorens at the University of Buffalo (SUNY), cites the Empire State’s taxes — “the highest … in the country” — as well as high spending, high debt, strict gun and tobacco laws, tough homeschooling regulations, “highly regulated” motorists, market-killing criteria for individual health insurance, and “rampant and unchecked” eminent-domain abuse.
Mercatus nails it on eminent-domain, taxes, debt, health insurance, and spending. They’ve probably got a good point on home-schooling, too.
Some of the measures, though, are head-scratchers, particularly on transit and transportation, an important topic in a dense region. (more…)
May 23, 2011
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Robert Fitzpatrick spent $140,000 buying up subway and bus ads to warn people that the world was going to end Saturday. According to news reports, it didn’t. So should we worry about how Fitzpatrick, a retiree on a fixed income, will support himself in the future?
Nope. “I still have a pension. I’m going to be OK,” the former MTA engineer told the Post yesterday.