According to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature face a potential budget shortfall between $5.2 to $8.6 billion next fiscal year.
This is due to projected shortfalls in personal income tax payments of $1.8 billion this year and $2.8 billion in the next budget.
How will Cuomo find the billions more in promised funding to fulfill some of his major transit commitments, which total up to $100 billion? Before dealing with any transportation issues, he first will need to find up to $8.6 billion just to maintain the same current level of spending.
Since this is an election year, taxpayers know that both the governor and legislature will add billions more in spending. Everyone has their own pet projects and programs that they will want to finance to grease the wheels of reelection.
On top of all that, Cuomo will still need to come up with the remaining $5.8 billion of the $8.3 billion he still owes to fund the 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan.
Why not have the MTA reprogram $695 million in Metro North East Bronx Penn Station Access, $1.7 billion for Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, $1.95 billion for the LIRR Main Line Third Track, $573 million to Cubic Transportation Systems for a new fare collection system, and $23 million for the Customer Service Ambassador program and save over $4.9 billion?
These dollars could be better spent providing $400 million to fully fund the emergency $836 million "Subway Action Plan" to deal with today's problems.
They could also provide a $4.4 billion down payment against the current $17 billion shortfall needed to bring the subway signal system up to a state of good repair.
All five cancelled projects could be funded in the MTA's 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan. What good do Customer Service Station Ambassadors or a new fare collection system do if you are still stuck on the platform waiting for a train..
Larry Penner worked for 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation.