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Testimony Before Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on the FY2023- 2024 Executive Budget

Delivered by Lisa Daglian, Executive Director
Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC)

Good afternoon, I am Lisa Daglian, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to
the MTA, PCAC. Created by the legislature in 1981 to represent riders on the MTA’s Long Island Rail
Road, Metro-North Railroad and New York City’s subways, buses and Staten Island Railway, our work
primarily focuses on advocating on behalf of riders and advising the MTA on operational performance
and capital projects through reports and policy recommendations. Importantly, our work also includes
support for adequate funding and improving transparency for all to have a better understanding of the
MTA. That is why we are here today. Thank you for holding this hearing today and for the work you do
every day; the outcomes provide tangible results for millions of New Yorkers.

The MTA is facing a huge deficit that, if not addressed, will lead to devastating cuts in bus, subway, and
rail service and/or crippling fare increases – any of which would significantly hinder the return of riders
to transit and have far-reaching negative consequences for the regional economy and for riders
themselves. Ensuring that there is sufficient and ongoing funding for a safe, reliable, affordable and
accessible transit system is the linchpin to getting riders back onboard and our region back on track.
That’s why we are very pleased that twenty-twenty-three is shaping up to be the year of the train – and
bus – rider. Simply put, the mechanisms for funding the MTA elucidated by the Governor have our
support. At the same time, we believe that the proposals laid out in the Executive Budget can be even
better. We are seeing a refreshing new approach to funding transit as the essential service it is,
recognizing it as the economic engine of the New York region and the entire northeast. An investment in
the MTA is a wise investment. Having a fiscally-sound path forward after the topsy-turvy, uncertain past
few years will be reassuring ‒ for riders and our regional economy.

Ensuring that there is sufficient, dedicated and ongoing operating aid for the MTA is our number one
priority. We hope you will agree and will seek ways to fully fund transit in the final budget in a way that
is sustainable and not susceptible to raids. Transit is an essential service and it’s time to fund it as such.
A commitment of $8.3 billion in total state operating aid, with $3.9 billion directly remitted, will go a
long way toward keeping the MTA away from the edge of the fiscal cliff. The more dedicated funds that
are remitted directly, of course, the less chance they will be diverted – as we have seen happen with 18-
b and PMT. Those funds should be restored and adjusted for inflation, as our colleagues at Reinvent
Albany have pointed out in their report Skipping Out, and in testimony today. Having the MTA
contribute to being part of the solution by reducing its expenses and finding efficiencies should help
bolster support and trust among the riding public and its funders.

The Governor’s Proposals
The $300 million direct payment to the MTA is a great start – and one we believe should be carried over
annually, off budget, and adjusted for inflation. When the gas tax “holiday” was enacted and the MTA
was held harmless, we contended that if the money was available to give to the MTA under those
circumstances, it should always be directed to the MTA, even as the gas tax reverts.
We believe that using future casino revenue is a smart gamble and will be a win for riders. These new
as-yet-to-be-sited destination locations will be a huge draw, and transit will be the best way to get to
the tables. Using profits to support subways, buses and commuter trains is a sure bet. A slight increase
in the Payroll Mobility Tax is a small price to pay for ensuring we have a strong and stable system that
will get riders to the jobs that support the region’s economy. Getting New York City to contribute $500
million a year for paratransit and student MetroCard programs and to help the State offset revenue
losses that result from exemptions to the PMT could also be a winning proposition. However, each of
these comes with its own political landmines, and we believe there are additional revenue alternatives
that are worth including in the conversation.

Other Potential Funding Considerations
By the end of next week, we will be able to share a list of sourced additional potential funding
alternatives with you on our website at in the form of a funding thermometer that
allows you to consider different combinations of revenue streams. A number of them came through
your houses. As examples, some of them are:

  • Progressive income tax increases for high income earners – $12-18 billion
  • Progressive tax on inheritances over $250,000 – $8 billion
  • Sales Tax increase in NYC to MTA to 0.75% – $1 billion
  • Increasing sales tax for alcohol sales in NYC by 3% – $150 million
  • Tax of $.01 per ounce of sweetened beverage – $288 million

Other Areas of Support
We support the following proposed legislation:
TED Part A (and Senator Krueger and Assemblymember Hyndman’s bill): Relating to Automated Bus
Lane Enforcement (ABLE) – Our bus network currently has some of the slowest speeds in the nation, and
improvements like bus lanes will help—but only if cars get out of the way. ABLE will help the MTA keep
buses and their many riders moving: the cost of slow buses, according to the Citizens Budget
Commission, is $268 million— the estimated amount the MTA could save by speeding up buses by
15%— but the dollar amount for time saving for riders is almost incalculable.

TED Part B and Part F: Relating to Enforcement on TBTA Facilities – Tolls provide substantial revenue for
the MTA and the transit system. Catching those who commit infractions, whether speeding or
attempting to evade payment, is key to a stronger transit network and sustainable transportation
network. This is especially the case in advance of Congestion Pricing.

TED H and I: Relating to Safety of Workers and Riders – Strengthening laws to better protect those who
work in and ride transit is critical to getting riders back on board and ensuring there are enough
workforce to run the essential service we require. Both of these proposed bills would strengthen
existing laws and add more teeth to enforcement options.
Investment in mental health, housing, and gun safety is an investment in ensuring that riders are safer in
the system, and that they feel safer when using transit. A continuum of care that also addresses the root
causes of many problems experienced by those in mental health and/or homeless crisis will go far to
make a real difference. We support the Governor’s proposed investment in these services.

Fix The MTA
As part of larger efforts to improve and fund the MTA for its millions of riders, we are supportive of
some of the key legislative priorities of the Fix the MTA package. We thank Assemblymember Mamdani
for proposing this transformative package that can help bring riders the 21st century transit system we

We’re particularly excited about Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Dinowitz’s legislation to give
riders a voting seat on the MTA Board. It’s important that the Board members who vote make decisions
about the future of the MTA have riders’ best interests in mind—that means they should ride transit and
have a deep level of understanding of the issues that face riders every day. This bill would do just that,
by giving a vote—a much stronger voice—to the existing MTA Board representatives from the New York
City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC), Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC), and MetroNorth Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC). Our three rider councils have a legacy of advocating for
improvements that have helped riders around the MTA region since the financial crisis of the 1970s, but
their MTA Board representatives currently do not have a vote.

This vital legislation would also give Access-A-Ride users a voice on the MTA Board for the first time—
crucial at a time when only 25% of subway stations are currently accessible, although many more are in
the works. Taken together, the four new voting MTA Board members representing regular users of NYC
Transit, LIRR, Metro-North, and Access-A-Ride are critical to creating an MTA and transit system for
riders, by riders, and with riders.

Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember González-Rojas’s bill to remit the Internet Marketplace Sales
Tax directly to the MTA, which is expected to deliver $329 million in 2023, will help ensure that transit
funding stays transit funding by creating another dedicated funding stream.

The Capital Side
Other key pieces of legislation in the Fix the MTA package to improve transparency are important to
ensuring that advocates, riders, and elected officials like yourselves can hold the MTA accountable when
we need to. Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Carroll’s bill to strengthen reporting requirements for
capital projects would make a big difference. Currently, it’s hard to understand project timelines,
purposes, and budgets through the MTA’s Capital Program Dashboard. Improvements as simple as
requiring the dashboard to state whether projects are resiliency or accessibility improvements, where
funding comes from, and whether there are delays would help all of us help the MTA and its riders—it
can be hard to do without clear, updated information on exciting projects in the works.

In speaking about the Capital Program, we’d be remiss not to mention the critical need for Congestion
Pricing and its expedient implementation. We’re hopeful that a FONSI will be delivered by the federal
government in the next weeks and that we can finally look forward to the benefits it will bring.
One of the major projects that is of regional significance and importance is the Penn Station project.
At PCAC, our priority is that the MTA fixes what it can that’s broken in the immediate term, as the state
and its partners make plans for the station’s long-term solution. We can all agree that the current state
of Penn Station is not acceptable, and that something must be done to address the overcrowding,
disorganization, and lack of access for those with disabilities. We believe that it is essential for all parties
involved, including the MTA and Amtrak, to work together toward a common goal of creating a Penn
Station that serves the needs of the riding public and the wider community.

As Senator Comrie recently noted, Amtrak’s current plan for the redevelopment of Penn Station is not
ideal. It is cost prohibitive and does not consider long-term economic development for the broader area.
Fixing Penn Station now for the riders of today is critical; fixing it for the longer view that includes a
more regional approach to rail should be considered for the long term.

We also support some of the legislation in the Fix the MTA package to improve the MTA’s efficiency,
including Senator Comrie and Assemblymember Mamdani’s bill to speed up the MTA’s construction
processes through streamlining utility relocations. Improving the construction process is key to building,
fixing, and maintaining the transit system at a time with major capital projects in the works, and this bill
is a common-sense measure to help the MTA get work done for riders.

Most critically, we’ve called on our city and state leaders to invest in the essential service it is, and we’re
glad that many of you here today support doing just that. Thank you.