"There’s plenty of money. It’s just off limits."
New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Tuesday that it plans to cut at least 1,000 positions in order to cover its latest budget gap of $378 million. MTA said it would eliminate “more than 600 represented and non-represented administrative postions,” while also moving to lay off “up to 500 NYC Transit station agents.”
MTA’s public statement said the cuts “represent 15% of administrative payroll across the MTA, with deeper cuts at MTA headquarters.”
I saw that headline in today's email news from RailwayAge, the trade magazine of the North American rail industry. It reminded me of something Doug Henwood wrote on his blog just over a month ago:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs the transit operations in and around New York City, is facing a budget shortfall of around $400 million. There are likely to be deep cuts to subway and bus service in New York City. There is, of course, “no money” to deal with the problem.
Actually, that depends on what your definition of “no” is. The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, who also happens to be the city’s richest resident, could comfortably write a check to solve the problem. Forbes estimates his net worth at $17.5 billion—meaning that the MTA’s gap is less than 3% of his personal fortune. He spent $102 million of his own money on his recent re-election campaign, and $159 million on his first two campaigns, for a total of $261 million. That’s two-thirds of the MTA’s gap.
Maybe it’s unfair to expect just a single plutocrat to cure the MTA’s budget ills. The twenty-three members of the Forbes 400 who live in New York City have a combined net worth of just under $130 billion. The MTA’s $400 million problem is all of 0.3% of their net worth.
So it’s not that there’s “no money.” There’s plenty of money. It’s just off limits.