Cuomo’s latest larceny targets NJ Transit’s budget | Editorial

Posted Jul 25, 2021

There are billions of dollars sitting in the federal coffers while transit officials from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut discuss how much each state should receive. It’s a settlement among regional partners, all of them in varying stages of desperation for relief from the pandemic’s powerful punch.

It is not a complicated debate. New Jersey and Connecticut agree the three states should use a time-honored formula from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), which is fair and equitable and codified by law.

On the other hand, New York, which is governed by someone who is rarely a fair and equitable partner, has decided it can rewrite the rules and filch roughly $700,000 that actually belongs in New Jersey Transit’s operating budget.

This masterclass of chutzpah comes courtesy of New York’s MTA, a veritable bonfire of public money in Andrew Cuomo’s fiefdom, an agency that always keeps its nose planted in the federal trough even after blowing through the billions it received last year.

This must not stand. This is supposed to be a partnership between honest brokers, but Cuomo’s MTA doesn’t see it that way. Rather than follow federal guidelines about apportionment – with New York getting $4 billion, New Jersey getting $1.4 billion, and Connecticut getting $189 million, the MTA devised a formula based on pre-pandemic operating expenses.

That would halve New Jersey’s allocation ($727M), take $14M out of Connecticut’s cut, and New York would scarf up the rest.

The MTA’s rationale is a Pecksniffian claim that it shuttled first responders to work at the height of the crisis, but as NJ Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti told us, “NJ Transit operated rail and bus service to ensure essential workers could perform the same services that MTA articulates – the only difference is that NJ Transit serves both sides of the river.”

Ken Lovett of the MTA also believes that “This crucial funding should be distributed based on need, not Congressional formulas.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) put him in his place. “The entire metropolitan area has desperate needs for this funding and traditionally we worked together, that’s why we follow the formula,” he told the New Haven Register. “Collaboration rather than competition should be the watchword.”

Unless this is resolved, however, the watchword for NJ Transit could be catastrophe.

The states face a September deadline to submit grant applications for FTA review. If they blew that deadline, or if NJ Transit caved to the MTA’s bullying, our commuters may face service cuts and fare hikes to get through the rest of this fiscal year.

This state has been around the block far too many times with Cuomo. He’s the neighbor who has fought the plan to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which serves (relative term) 90,000 New Jerseyans a day. He has attempted numerous power grabs with the PA board. He has threatened to withhold New York’s share of the funding for the Hudson tunnel. And now this.

He is a man of notoriously intemperate disposition, and now he needs to bail out a horrid transit system that is $2 billion in the red by screwing his neighbors. As Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg put it, “Governor Cuomo needs a monthly reminder that New York is not really an island in a societal sense.”

Cuomo pulls every string at the MTA, and if he has any interest in restoring our intrastate synergy, he can resolve this today. He might be ultimately blamed for fare hikes, but last we checked, his polls can’t drop much lower anyway.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-07-26 03:09:11 -0700