The NYT hosted an online forum on how to fix the MTA today.

Here are some deeper #s:

In 2004, MTA labor spending was $5 billion. Today, it’s nearly $7 billion. (Look for yourself here and here.) If it had kept up with inflation between ’04 and ’09, it would be $5.8 billion. And the MTA would not face its big deficits today.

Pension costs have more than doubled, from $480 million to $1 billion, and are likely to worsen.

What about healthcare?

In 2004, healthcare cost $711 million, including a pay-as-you-go component for current retiree payments that wasn’t specifically itemized. In 2009, healthcare costs were nearly $1.1 billion, including a $340 million pay-as-you go component for current retiree payments that the MTA started itemizing in 2007. (You can read about this change here, but you must search for the “other post employment benefits heading, because there are no page #s).

A couple of commenters on the Times debate, besides questioning whether there was any rise in healthcare spending, present an argument that I hear often: this all Pataki’s fault, for squeezing operating subsidies and piling on the debt.

I have talked about these issues before; I only had 300 words today. But it is not the whole story. Why did Pataki slash subsidies to the MTA and pile on the debt? Partly because of a failure to control labor, healthcare, and other costs at the state level.

It’s the same problem as at the MTA, but on a bigger level.

Either way, it all comes down to the same thing: the state’s failure to prioritize and cut spending.

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