Malliotakis says state failing to curb MTA debt
The recently adopted New York state budget “strikes a fatal blow” to efforts made by fiscally conservative lawmakers to bring fiscal accountability to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis charged.
Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), a longtime critic of the MTA, said the new $150 billion state budget authorizes the agency to increase its debt limit from $37.2 billion to $55 billion. Malliotakis, who called the new debt limit “unsustainable,” warned that the authorization makes the MTA a runaway train and will lead to fare hikes and service cuts in the future.
She charged that the debt limit increase approved by the legislature allows the MTA to issue more debt than the entire state of New York. The state’s debt cap is an estimated $47 billion, according to Malliotakis.
“The MTA is already the fifth-largest municipal debtor in the nation with $36 million in debt. Instead of being responsible and using the state’s surplus or court settlement funds to pay down this debt, legislators took the unconscionable action of allowing the mismanaged agency to issue more bonds, take on more debt, and kick the can so far down the road that it can never be brought back,” Malliotakis said in a statement.
Calling the debt ceiling increase a “misguided move,” Malliotakis said the action “puts a nail in the coffin, making it impossible to ever bring fiscal responsibility to this troubled agency and will certainly lead to more unaffordable toll hikes, fare hikes and service cuts.”
The MTA has a history of enacting capital plans riddled with unnecessary and unaffordable projects, Malliotakis charged. She pointed to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) East Side Access Project, which she said is currently $6 billion overrun and 10 years over schedule, as an example.
But MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said Malliotakis is mistaken.
“Assemblymember Malliotakis has a fundamental misunderstanding of the MTA’s debt cap,” Ortiz told the Brooklyn Eagle via email. “What she doesn’t understand is that the MTA has been retiring debt at the rate of about $1 billion annually, which effectively balances the cost of more recent borrowing.”
Ortiz also told the Eagle that the debt service cost associated with the work of the MTA’s capital program is “already factored into the MTA’s operating budget and has nothing to do with fare increases already anticipated and limited to the rate of inflation.”
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