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Cuomo and De Blasio Agree on Plan to Fund $26.1 Billion MTA Capital Budget

By Jeff Mays | October 12, 2015 12:09pm
 A crowd of riders wait for the subway at the Roosevelt Avenue station in September 2014, the same month as five ridership numbers were broken.
A crowd of riders wait for the subway at the Roosevelt Avenue station in September 2014, the same month as five ridership numbers were broken.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

MIDTOWN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed over the weekend on how to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's five-year capital plan.

The state will commit $8.3 billion and the city will provide $2.5 billion to close the funding gap on the agency's $26.1 billion improvement plan.

It was not immediately clear what impact, if any, the deal would have on future fare hikes for subways, buses and tolls.

The two men, already locked in a long-running feud, were also publicly arguing over how to pay for the desperately needed improvements.

De Blasio had been going back and forth with Cuomo and MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergrast, who were urging the city to commit more funding to the plan. A report from the Independent Budget Office said the city's contribution to the plan had not kept up with inflation.

The mayor said city riders already paid more than their fair share of the plan through fares and taxes but that he was willing to consider more funding only if the monies were dedicated to capital improvement, the state identified how it would come up with its share of the money and the city had more of a say in which capital projects were chosen.

Meanwhile, straphangers were suffering through delays related to old and busted equipment as ridership has soared. The plan will pay for new equipment, repairs and technology officials say is needed to ease delays.

The city's new contribution is up from the $657 million it had already committed but less than the $3.2 billion that Prendergast requested this summer.

Under the agreement, New York City will contribute $1.9 billion in direct city funding and guarantee another $600 million in alternative revenue not from the city's tax levy. Sources said it will likely involve some sort of revenue from real estate development. The state also agreed not to divert any of the funds.

But the source of the state funding is still unclear and identified only in the agreement as "state sources." There is a fear among city officials and transit advocates that the MTA would issue bonds to pay for the plan, meaning that riders would have to ultimately pay in the form of higher fares.

The $26.1 billion plan is $700 million less than the MTA intended. The MTA said it will make up the difference by seeking "efficiencies" or "program reductions."

De Blasio hailed the "city’s largest ever general capital contribution" saying it would give "riders and taxpayers a stronger voice."

Cuomo called the agreement "crucial in supporting our growing economy" and added "this program would not have been possible without everyone stepping up to pay their fair share."

But the agreement does not mean the feud between the two men is over, said Evan Thies, a political consultant and president of Brooklyn Strategies.

The fact that the agreement was hammered out by Emma Wolfe, a top de Blasio political aide, and Melissa DeRosa, one of the governor's top political aides, is a sign of the troubled dynamic between the two men.

"Political aides are thought of as wartime consiglieres and are usually not at the forefront of doing the business of government. It shows they are both concerned about saving face or the government wonks — not two trusted and very capable but political aides — would have put this deal together," said Thies. "What this was is a détente and an end to what had become daily bashing of one another."

John Samuelsen, president of the transit workers' union TWU Local 100, who had joined Cuomo in attacking de Blasio over funding, called the agreement "a great win" for riders and MTA workers.