Cuomo vetoes bills on increasing MTA hearings, locking transportation funds

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The MTA has reduced the size of future

The MTA has reduced the size of future planned fare hikes, including one in 2015, to 4 percent from 7.5 percent. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed a bill Thursday that would have ordered the MTA to hold more hearings before raising fares and another measure that would have placed public transportation funds in a figurative “lock box” that couldn’t be tapped for other government functions.

Cuomo said the measures were unnecessary and restrictive, but supporters said his decisions would hurt millions of New York commuters.

Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) sponsored the measure that would have compelled the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to hold a hearing in every county affected by any proposed fare, toll or service change. He said Cuomo was “wrong” to nix a measure that would have given the public more input on the MTA operations.

“When it considered the most recent fare increase proposal in the fall of 2012, the MTA held public forums in different areas of the MTA region, but there were several counties in which no public hearing was held, even though residents of those counties were directly impacted by the MTA changes,” Fuschillo said in a statement. “The MTA also holds simultaneous hearings in different counties, thereby preventing all the board members from being present at all hearings.”

The MTA services 12 counties in the downstate region.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said the MTA already conducts “extensive” outreach on proposed fare and service changes. Referencing the same 2012 fare hike, Cuomo said the agency held eight public hearings and provided satellite locations where customers could have their comments recorded. He noted riders can also mail and email comments to the MTA.

The governor said he blocked the “lock box” proposal because restricting the use of certain funds could hamper the state during fiscal emergencies — an argument many of his predecessors have made when the state Legislature has tried to restrict certain funds. Cuomo indicated he could have supported the proposal if the Legislature had amended it to allow fund transfers for fiscal emergencies.

A commuters’ advocacy group said the veto could hurt transportation services.

“The veto means that taxes and fees dedicated to public transit will remain extremely vulnerable to budget raids,” Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool said in a statement. “The public and the legislature recognize that diverting specially-dedicated transit funds to plug budget gaps is simply wrong.”

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