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Local lawmakers call for audit of MTA

The MTA's $11 billion budget should be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb before extra taxes are imposed on Long Islanders, a group of state lawmakers said Friday morning.

In a news conference at the Ronkonkoma railroad station, the lawmakers called for State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to conduct a forensic audit on the MTA, which would provide "a full accounting" of the agency's spending, they said.

"If you bring in $60,000 and you have bills for $75,000, the first thing you do is cut spending," said Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue). "The MTA payroll tax is a knee-jerk reaction."

Before taxpayers across the region bail out the agency, it has to open up its books to a full inspection, he said.

Assemb. Michael Montesano (R, I, C-Glen Head) estimated that such a study could take six to nine months, and said its cost would depend on whether the comptroller's office would need to hire an outside firm for assistance.

A spokesman for the comptroller's office said that the agency is already auditing parts of the MTA operation and is focusing on its purchasing and use of overtime.

"We are doing a very detailed review," said spokesman Robert Whalen. "We want to see that every dollar the MTA spends is spent appropriately. There are a lot of redundancies in the MTA ... they have 75,000 people in its various units."

Whalen noted that the MTA has not met its revenue projections, but added that New York State has also not met revenue projections.

"It's a very difficult revenue environment," he said. "Over the past six months, we have increased our efforts to help the MTA find savings. . . . we understand the MTA is vital for the city and the regional economy.

State Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) was not at the news conference, but did sign the letter that is being sent to DiNapoli calling for the audit.

"I'd like to see everyone go through their books, line by line," he said.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Jay Walder recently announced that the agency plans to lay off more than 1,000 employees and cut services to close a $378 million budget gap.

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