Former Assembly member Richard Brodsky and the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon have sent a joint letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, legislative leaders and the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), urging the state to redirect up to $4 billion in unspent financial penalty settlement funds to help finance desperately needed subway repairs as well as highway and bridge work.
Noting that it appears at least $5 billion in windfall cash has not yet been spent, Brodsky and McMahon wrote: “We suggest that you consider reprogramming and appropriating at least $4 billion of this money for an ‘Emergency Repair and Maintenance Program,’ divided between needed New York City transit upgrades and highway and bridge capital needs in the rest of the state. It is essential that such a program be focused on bringing these systems to a ‘State of Good Repair.’”
When the state began collecting the first of billions in financial settlement windfall money in July 2014, Brodsky and McMahon co-authored a New York Daily News op-ed article urging the “sustainable, prudent and socially beneficial approach” of setting aside all the money for capital projects, especially transportation. But as the windfall grew to $10 billion, state budgets steered most of the money to a variety of less essential non-infrastructure uses, including $2 billion for a variety of upstate economic development projects.
McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, called for spending windfall cash on transportation capital projects in a New York Post op-ed article on Tuesday.
The Brodsky-McMahon joint letter to the governor, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota comes at a time of mounting public concern over city transit problems, highlighted by a subway derailment Tuesday.
Brodsky and McMahon wrote: “The problems, as we understand them, are operational as well as financial. With this letter, we are suggesting action well within your practical abilities to help swiftly address the financial needs of the system, even as the more time-consuming engineering and construction challenges are worked out.”
They recommended that the MTA’s board “consider a Capital Plan amendment consistent with the transit share of the proposed funding stream” and that the state Department of Transportation “be directed to recommend priority bridge and highway construction projects in the rest of the state for expedited review and approval by the Legislature at the earliest opportunity.”
The letter can be viewed here.