New York City Taxpayers Shoulder Bulk of MTA Funding

By Mara Gay Features Dow Jones Newswires

The squabble between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about who should fork over more money to fix the city's ailing subway system is likely to change little for New York City taxpayers.

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In the end, budget experts say city taxpayers shoulder much of the financial burden.

Those taxpayers contribute the largest chunk of funding to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that oversees the subway system so critical to making the city and its economy run.

"The city money that goes towards the MTA is generated off New York City taxpayers, and the state money is generated off the New York City taxpayer," said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of transit-advocacy group the Riders Alliance.

As a range of problems plague the aging system, New Yorkers have heard a lot of talk from Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, two Democrats.

Mr. Cuomo contends the state has raised its contribution to the MTA to the highest levels in years. Mr. de Blasio says the city already pays more than its fair share and has accused Mr. Cuomo of raiding MTA funds for projects unrelated to the normal maintenance of the subways.

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A Wall Street Journal analysis of the MTA's roughly $15.7 billion operating for 2017 shows that New York City residents and businesses are paying more than $5 billion annually to the agency through monies collected by both the state and city.

As for funding for the remainder of the MTA's budget, $6.3 billion is financed by fares, and $1.9 billion by tolls.

Another $2.5 billion comes from state funds, including those collected from taxpayers in the surrounding suburbs such as Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties, which are heavily dependent on the MTA.

Jamison Dague, director of infrastructure studies at the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan group that studies the MTA, estimated New York City residents and businesses pay about two-thirds of the taxes and subsidies in the MTA budget.

The city directly contributes about $1.8 billion in funds annually directly to the transit agency, according to city and MTA data.

The city estimates it also spends another $400 million on indirect services through the New York Police Department, which patrols the subways.

The city's taxpayers, however, contribute additional billions through a dizzying brew of more than a dozen state and local taxes and fees, from a payroll tax to a petroleum-business tax, a mortgage-recording tax and more.

Most of those funds are collected by the state, which in turn distributes them to the MTA. The state's roughly $4.9 billion direct contribution to the MTA largely was made up of these taxes

The MTA's roughly $32 billion capital plan receives about $8.5 billion in state funds, $7.6 billion in federal funds and $2.5 billion from New York City. Mr. Cuomo said last month he would contribute an additional $1 billion in state money to the plan.

As subway delays and infrastructure problems mount, Messrs. Cuomo and de Blasio remain at a stalemate about who should pay for the $836 million plan to stabilize the system. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who was appointed by Mr. Cuomo last month, has called on the mayor to split the cost with the state. Mr. de Blasio has refused, saying the MTA has the funds it needs and has mismanaged its money. He reiterates that the responsibility for the system lies solely with Mr. Cuomo.

The mayor also called on Mr. Cuomo to replace the $456 million in MTA operating funds he redirected elsewhere since 2011. Cuomo officials say the request is absurd because it disregards the billions more the state has put toward the agency in recent years.

--Mike Vilensky and Melanie Grayce West contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 27, 2017 20:01 ET (00:01 GMT)