Today’s news about criminal charges against five current and former MTA employees for alleged overtime fraud is a reminder that New Yorkers deserve to know how government spends every dollar. This investigation likely would have never happened if the Empire Center hadn’t blown the whistle on the MTA’s overtime spending in April 2019. In fact, three of the five individuals named in the criminal complaint were highlighted in previous Empire Center publications. The Empire Center has sued the MTA twice since 2015 to make sure payroll information gets disclosed to the public, most recently to preserve public access to portions of the MTA Police payroll.
However, fraudulent overtime is just the tip of the iceberg. The MTA’s COVID-driven revenue losses shouldn’t conceal the fact that the Authority already faced runaway personnel costs. The MTA’s overtime spending has spiked in recent years because of inefficient union contracts, and despite a COVID-driven drop in revenues, the MTA gave most subway workers raises in May.
The MTA’s largest union is already advocating for tax increases, including higher gas taxes, and the Authority’s leadership is seeking a federal bailout. But these criminal charges are proof that the MTA, and New York state officials, need to do their fair share to cut costs before asking New Yorkers to pay more.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.