New York State Gov. Mario M. Cuomo yesterday proposed an $8.6 billion capital program for the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a plan to fund the authority's budget without a fare increase.
The governor's capital budget plan is $1 billion shy of the amount the authority proposed in October. The proposal would support a $12.1 billion state Department of Transportation program, which includes selling $4 billion of bonds in the next seven years.
Cuomo also asked the state Legislature to hold a special session this month to approve his transportation plan. The plan calls for $20.7 billion in improvements to highways, bridges, and mass transit systems around the state.
In October, the authority proposed a revised five-year $9.6 billion capital program. Under the proposal, the authority's operating budget showed a $266 million deficit for fiscal 1993. The authority proposed to close the gap through federal funding and fare and toll increases.
MTA officials said they largely agree with the governor's new program, which would freeze subway, bus, and commuter railroad fares through 1995. But the authority plans to fight the proposed decrease in its capital program.
"We're concerned about that," said Tito Davila, a spokesman for the MTA. "But there may be a change in philosophy when this gets into legislation."
Davila said, however, that the MTA is pleased about Cuomo's other proposals, including his dedication of petroleum business tax revenues to the authority during the course of the five-year capital plan.
Davila said this dedication will bolster the MTA's credit in the municipal bond market. At the moment, the MTA relies on a state legislative appropriation to cover debt service, he said.
The governor's plan received mixed reaction from the Legislature. In a press release, Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin, D-Queens, said the governor's plan is a step in the right direction.
William Stevens, a spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Ralph Marino, R-Muttontown, said while it is too early to comment on the merits of the plan, Senate lawmakers will have reservations about the governor's proposal to divert $516 million from the petroleum business tax to help balance the state's fiscal 1994 budget. The rest of the tax receipts will be used for transportation funding purposes, including debt service for the MTA.
The governor plans to divert $200 million from the tax for budget needs during fiscal 1995. The state is expected to generate about $700 million annually through the tax, which under an agreement between the Legislature and the governor must be used to fund transportation needs.
A spokesman for the governor said, however, the agreement should be broken to avoid tax increases or severe budget cuts to balance next year's budget.