Friday, 24 July 2009 00:00The MTA hasn’t exactly earned the trust of the public lately with its recent fair increases and a state bailout plan that includes a payroll tax to help fund the agency’s budget. The distrust of the MTA has also found its way to the state legislature as Republican lawmakers in the Assembly are planning on introducing legislation to create more oversight of the MTA.
“The commuters and residents have really had it with the MTA. The fare increases, the payroll tax and cutting of customer service are truly disgraceful. This oversight board will bring accountability to the people,” said Assemblyman Tom Alfano, a member of the Republican delegation who represents the 21st Assembly District.
“The MTA bailout payroll tax is the worst and most unfair piece of legislation that Albany has passed this year,” added Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R.-Massapequa). “When you see all of the new taxes, tax increases and fee increases they have forced upon the people of our state, it says quite a bit to call the MTA bailout plan the worst of them all. I voted against this law because I understand the cries of the overburdened taxpayers. Now we are calling for a ‘Fiscal Oversight Control Board’ to force the MTA to create sound business practices, approve or disapprove contracts, root out abuse of the system, reduce a bloated bureaucracy, stop fare increases and issue regular financial reports to the public. In short, respect taxpayers and all who pay fares, fees and transportation costs.”
Republican Assembly members from Nassau County hope to propose the creation of a MTA Fiscal Oversight Control Board which would be empowered to freeze salaries and benefits of MTA employees, approve MTA contracts totaling over $100,000, resolve MTA labor grievances, conduct forensic audits of all MTA receipts and expenditures and issue public reports on MTA finances.
Seven members would comprise the proposed MTA Fiscal Oversight Board, with the governor, comptroller, attorney general, Assembly speaker, Senate majority leader, Assembly minority leader, and Senate minority leader each making one appointment that would serve a four-year, unpaid term.
According to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, there are 8,214 employees in the MTA’s workforce who make over $100,000, more than 10 percent of the workforce. Top earners for 2008 included MTA executive director and CEO Elliot Sander, who made $290,259; LIRR President Helena Williams, who made $285,710; and Ronald C. Dunne, a car repairman, who made $283,618.
A bill to create the oversight board would have to be introduced and then passed in the Assembly, the Senate and then be signed into law by the governor. A bill is being drafted and is expected to be introduced when the assembly is back in session, most likely later this summer.