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MTA expected to slash LIRR, Long Island Bus service

Commuters wait on the platform at the LIRR

Commuters wait on the platform at the LIRR station in Hicksville. (November 2008) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The MTA is expected to unveil a 2010 budget Monday that slashes service to Long Island Rail Road and Long Island Bus riders despite the May state bailout designed to avoid those cuts.

The budget will be revealed at the MTA board's Finance Committee meeting Monday in Manhattan, said MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin. Soffin declined to give specifics about the planned cuts, but said "changes in specific programs" and "pay cuts to employees" are "all things that are on the table."

MTA officials have said the cuts will be similar to those proposed in the "doomsday budget" the authority had proposed before the state bailout. Those cutbacks, which were systemwide, included eliminating train service to West Hempstead on weekends and shifting off-peak service on the Port Washington branch from half-hourly to hourly.

"We'll be presenting a balanced budget tomorrow and that's all I can say at this time," Soffin said.

MTA sources have said the return to cutbacks is a result of a recently discovered budget shortfall of about $350 million.

State leaders approved a $143-million cut in state aid earlier this month. A week ago, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson said the keystone of the state bailout - a payroll tax for employers in areas served by the MTA - had fallen more than $200 million short of projections.

The likelihood of service cuts drew ire from Long Island officials who opposed the MTA payroll tax all along. Several towns passed resolutions opposing the tax, which some officials described as a "job killer."

Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan said while he opposed the payroll tax, he believed it would "protect our service." Sunday, he said the possibility of cuts "shakes your confidence" in the MTA.

"This is like your midnight surprise," he said. "I thought we were getting something for the money."

The MTA's financial picture is made more grim by its loss of an arbitration appeal against TWU Local 100. The loss means the MTA must pay wage increases that the authority feels are "inconsistent with the economic crisis in New York," the authority says in a statement.

The ruling adds $100 million to MTA expenses in 2010 and $200 million in 2011, the statement said.

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