Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday refused to offer more money to the state to help the MTA avoid another fare and toll hike in 2019.
Even as ridership drops and service suffers, the cash-strapped MTA is still contemplating another series of fare and toll hikes next year — the sixth hike since 2009. But the mayor stood firm in arguing that the city’s residents and businesses already contribute heavily to the MTA’s operating budget and that city wallets shouldn’t open again for the state-controlled authority’s fare and toll conundrum.
“I will speak for my fellow 8.6 million New Yorkers: We’re not suckers. Right now the people of New York City are paying the vast majority of the cost of our subways and buses. That’s a fact,” de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference. “The city government provides a lot more direct funding to the MTA than the state government does from its budget.”
Without the fare and toll hikes, the MTA’s budget deficit would increase by roughly $311 million next year and $582 million in 2020.
Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon said during their debate Wednesday night that they support finding more money for the MTA to stave off the hikes, though each took different approaches.
Cuomo said he was willing to cover half of the cost of the deficits as long as the city paid for the other half of the tab.
“I would support canceling the fare hike because the service is not what people deserve,” Cuomo said during the debate. “It has to be a joint funding responsibility between the city and the state. By law . . . New York City owns the New York City Transit Authority.”
Nixon pledged that, as governor, she would have the state cover the cost. She attacked Cuomo for trying to obfuscate control and responsibility over the MTA’s beleaguered subway and bus service.
“Gov. Cuomo knows the MTA is controlled by the governor,” Nixon said. “It is a state agency and to pretend anything else is completely disingenuous.”
Both she and de Blasio criticized Cuomo’s stewardship of the transit authority.
“During his term as governor almost half a billion dollars earmarked for the MTA was taken from the MTA and moved over to the state budget,” de Blasio said. “That’s part of why the MTA is having the trouble it’s having. So no, I’m not falling for that.”
Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Cuomo, said in a statement that, “If the mayor doesn’t pay, he is saying fares have to go up and the governor thinks that’s a terrible mistake and will do everything he can to stop it.”
De Blasio did voice approval, though, for the MTA’s Fast Forwad plan to modernize subway and bus service — an unfunded blueprint crafted by MTA Transit president Andy Byford. He has estimated that the plan would cost around $40 billion and is seeking capital funding contributions from the city.
De Blasio said that amount of money could only come from new and badly needed dedicated revenue streams for the MTA.
“We’re not going to get $30 to $40 billion out of the city budget,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to get it from either a millionaires tax or, as some prefer, congestion pricing, or some combination of tools.”