Bond Buyer: MTA may delay pension payments

| NY Torch

If Gov. Paterson cuts funding to the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority as expected, the MTA may make up for the cut by slashing payments to its pension fund, the Bond Buyer reports (you need a subscription).

The MTA would use the temporary savings to repay some of its short-term debt. It incurred this debt earlier this year in anticipation of bailout money (shockingly, the MTA did this borrowing even though we told it not to).

Paterson has proposed to cut MTA operating funding by $115 million, mostly by slashing the “dedicated sales, petroleum, and transportation-related taxes” upon which the authority has long depended, notes the Bond Buyer‘s Ted Phillips.

MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson said yesterday that the cuts present a dilemma, because the authority must repay its short-term bonds by the end of the year. So the MTA likely will solve the dilemma by delaying monthly pension-fund payments until next year, reports Phillips.

Remember: A few months ago, the MTA went to the state begging for a bailout, or else draconian service cuts and other bad stuff would ensue. So the state, after much hand-wringing, enacted a new $1.5 billion downstate payroll tax for the authority.

So here’s what downstate New Yorkers should be wondering: was that bailout really just another back-door tax hike for New York State?

It’s only because the MTA can now count on its new payroll-tax subsidy that the state even dares to reduce its other dedicated gas- and sales-tax subsidies and some of that money to the general state deficit instead.

In effect, then, part of the MTA bailout money, which comes at a high economic price, is just going to bail out Albany and its overbloated spending elsewhere.

The state can only do this, too, because, as ever, the MTA is willing to play financial sleight-of-hand to please the politicians.