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EDITORIAL: New MTA contract looks like a joke

This week's revelation of the sweet contract handed to Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers encapsulates everything that is wrong with the MTA. The failure of MTA management to stand up to pandering politicians. The crisis-to-crisis budgeting. The willingness to pick taxpayers' and riders' pockets, rather than economize.

An arbitrator gave away 11 percent raises over three years, at a time when many other workers are facing pay cuts and layoffs. MTA employees will no longer have to pay 1.5 percent of their overtime wages toward health care premiums - a concession management fought hard for and won after the 2005 strike. And the arbitrator threw out a cost-saving plan to have some subway trains operated by just one person.

The MTA gave away the store and got nothing - which was predictable as soon as the agency punted negotiations to an arbitrator last December. Knowing its labor costs could skyrocket, the MTA cried poor to Albany, saying it needed money to fix up trains, buses and tracks. Lawmakers handed over $2.26 billion in new revenue and 10 percent fare hikes.

As a result of the contract fiasco, fare increases scheduled for 2011 may be moved up to 2010. And roughly $36 million of the $200 million Long Islanders will pay in MTA payroll taxes each year supports these pay raises. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has the right idea to itemize this cost on property tax bills. Other levels of government should, too.

How can we believe anything the MTA says anymore? This agency's credibility problem keeps getting worse. hN