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State Senator Questions Need For MTA Fare Hikes

Agency Has Budget Surplus But Raising Fares Twice By 2017
A train test vehicle at Rockaway Park-Beach 116 St. - May 28, 2013 (credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

A train test vehicle at Rockaway Park-Beach 116 St. – May 28, 2013 (credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The chairman of the state Senate’s Transportation Committee questioned the MTA chief Thursday about the agency’s need to raise fares twice by 2017.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), in a panel hearing, noted the MTA currently has a nearly $2 billion budget surplus and that other state agencies have been required to operate within 2-percent annual budget increases.

The MTA is set to hike fares in 2015 and 2017.

“New York state instituted a 2-percent property tax cap that school districts are living with,” Fuschillo told MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast. “We’ve had budgets under Governor (Andrew) Cuomo that have been less than 2-percent growth. Could the MTA live within a 2-percent cap?”

Prendergast responded by saying the surplus does not reflect recurring revenue streams and can’t be used to offset fare increases.

“What we’re trying to do right now, Senator, is to be as transparent as possible to show you where revenues are and where expenses are,” Prendergast said.

As for the surplus, he said: “The first determination that is made is, is this a sustainable revenue? Is it a revenue that we expect to be recurring versus a one-off revenue?”

In an audit, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found last month that the transit agency has $1.9 billion in “unanticipated funds.” DiNapoli said the surplus came from lower pension contributions, energy costs, debt service, health insurance costs and higher tax revenues.

The audit also found tolls have risen faster than inflation over the past six years.

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