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Beyond doomsday: The MTA socked with $400 million budgetary hole

This is more Armageddon than doomsday.

MTA officials said Wednesday the agency now faces a $400 million budget gap — even with the “doomsday” cuts planned for the summer. That means more service reductions could be floated this year on top of the dozens already in the works.

“Are you kidding me? Of course this really upsets me,” said Peter Simis, 42, a Queens straphanger.

MTA officials are still pledging to hold off on a fare hike until 2011.  But a new state tax on employers is underperforming, and the MTA will have to plug a $200 million gap next year as well, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

“It’s very alarming,” he said.

The MTA board won’t begin discussing the possibility of additional service cuts until its July budget talks, Soffin said. Public hearings on the first round of service cuts — including the elimination of two subway lines and many bus routes — will kick off next month.

“It’s going to be a hassle,” said James McMillian, 57, a Brooklyn straphanger.

The new .34 percent tax on company payrolls was supposed to generate more than $2.5 billion between 2009 and 2010, which helped the MTA stave off service cuts last year. When the revenue came up $229 million short, state officials assumed companies would pay up after Jan. 1.

Now, it appears that the original calculations for the tax were way off because the recession has taken a far greater toll on payrolls than expected.

“The decline in our revenue sources have been unprecedented,” said Matt Anderson, spokesman for the state Division of the Budget.

The numbers could get better, Anderson said, as the state’s going after businesses who owe money.

Given the magnitude of the hole, transit advocates again called on the MTA to tap federal stimulus funds, which the agency has resisted.

“This is a wake-up call,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said.

If it doesn’t get new revenue sources, the MTA would have to cut massive amounts of service to account for the shortfall. The proposal to eliminate the entire M train, for example, only saves $4 million. Last year, the MTA considered slashing late night subway service and eliminating the Z train, but the cuts didn’t make the doomsday plan.

Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this story.

Doomsday timeline

Nov. 2008: MTA first proposes doomsday cuts and a $2.50 fare hike

March 2009: MTA board passes cuts

May 2009: Albany comes through with a rescue plan, with fares going to $2.25

Dec. 2009: Doomsday cuts return after a $383 million budgetary hole emerges

Jan. 2010: MTA revises doomsday cuts

Feb. 2010: Budget hole grows to nearly $800

July 2010: First round of cuts could take effect, and more could be proposed

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