Gov. Andrew Cuomo brushed aside Mayor Bill de Blasio’s main objections to having the city pony up $3.2 billion toward the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s construction and maintenance budget as “a red herring” and “a joke.”
Speaking to reporters today about the increasingly bitter feud after an unrelated event at Columbia University, Mr. Cuomo summarily dismissed Mr. de Blasio’s assertions that the state could not be trusted with additional funds because the governor had a history of taking money out of the MTA budget to use for other projects. The governor mocked this argument, claiming the only time he had ever withdrawn money from the MTA budget was last year, in which $20 million of Albany’s $1 billion outlay for the authority was used to pay off some of the MTA’s bond debts.
“It is a joke to say, ‘I give you $1 billion, I take $20 million to pay off bonds as a book-keeping entry, and your response to be, ‘You took $20 million.’ No, I gave you a billion. I didn’t take $20 million,” he said. “You want to say the net of that conversation is I took $20 million? It’s a joke.”
Ah, but transit advocates say it's "no joke":
"We've seen a lot of interesting history around the way the state has handled the MTA budget," de Blasio said on Thursday. "We certainly know, since this governor came into office, I think $270 million were taken out of the MTA's budget and put into the state budget for other uses ... We want to make sure that money that's put into the MTA stays in the MTA."
"It's not a joke," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.
According to the city, in fiscal year 2011-12, the state raided $200 million from the MTA, although, for very arcane reasons, there is a debate among wonks about whether that number is more accurately $100 million, according to John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.
"We have to have the raid council get together and have a talmudic conversation to parse the details," he said.
Kaehny also noted out that the city's calculations might actually be understating the size of the raids because they don't take into account the money Cuomo siphoned from the MTA when he cut tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which is operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, an MTA subsidiary.
There is broad agreement, however, that two years later, the state raided $20 million; the next year, $30 million; and then another $20 million the next.
"Service cuts & fare hikes that result from raids are not a 'joke' to millions of #transit riders throughout NYS," tweeted the Tri-State Transportation Campaign on Thursday afternoon.
Cuomo's been getting the best of de Blasio time and time again in these fights, but in this one, de Blasio's got the high ground, backed by transit advocates.
Cuomo, on the other hand, has the TWU (whom he bribed with a contract before his re-election to stave off a strike) pummeling de Blasio in ads for him.
Quite frankly, this all would end if Cuomo would just stop raiding the funds.
But he won't and you can bet given the animosity here, he'll go out of his way in the future to re-direct more of it elsewhere while denying he did it.