Comptroller Claims There's a $1.9 Billion Surplus in MTA Budget; MTA Still Planning on Hiking Fares
This past Friday the state Comptroller's office reported that it had uncovered a nearly $2 billion surplus in its operating budget. How about those scheduled fare hikes in 2015 and 2017? Despite news of the surplus, MTA officials plan to go ahead with the fare hikes anyway.
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Update: This post has been updated throughout.
In his report released Friday, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called the MTA's financial situation "much improved," finding that the extra $1.9 billion in savings coming over the next four years means the transit agency has largely emerged from Recession-era shortfalls.
MTA Spokesman Adam Lisberg says that the report misses a key reality of the MTA's budget: whatever surplus there might be is already tied up in the agency's budgets over the coming years. "We don't see a surplus because we've already allocated our budgets," Lisberg tells Runnin' Scared. "It's not like there's a pile of $2 billion sitting somewhere."
The comptroller's audit found that lower contributions to pension funds, lower energy costs, savings on health insurance, and debt service were responsible for the extra money in its offers, according to CBS New York.
Yet the MTA still plans on instituting fare hikes over the next four years, with current projections putting a single ride fare at $3.00 by 2017, citing the volatility of tax revenue and that many of the costs they cannot control, like debt service and pension contributions, rise at rates faster than that of inflation.
DiNapoli's analysis is openly skeptical of the MTA's position, pointing to fare hikes since 2007 that far outpace the inflation rate. "In recent years, the MTA has placed less emphasis on new cost-reduction initiatives even as it continues to press for large fare and toll increases," reads one section of the report.
One especially shocking example: between 2007 and 2013, the price of the 30-day MetroCard increased 47 percent, three times the inflation rate during that period.
The report lists the various capital improvement project the MTA has planned over the coming decade, including the Second Avenue Subway and upgrades to the existing system, expenses covered in part by fare hikes.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that the MTA discovered the surplus. In fact it was the Comptroller's office that points to the surplus.
On the next page, read the full report from the New York State Comptroller's Office.