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New York Post

 

Andrew's Transit Travesty

April 25, 2012

By Nicole Gelinas

Paterson pick signals trouble ahead

Bad news for straphangers: Gov. Cuomo has named ex-Gov. David Paterson to the MTA board. This is business-as-usual New York — on track to a crumbling transit system.

The governor said Paterson would be a "powerful advocate and informed voice." Yeah — a powerful voice for the Transport Workers Union.

The TWU, which staffs subways and buses, is described as all-powerful. But it’s only powerful because the pols have made it so.

Paterson contributed — a lot. And now Cuomo is doing the same.

Back in early 2009, the three-year contract with the TWU was up — and Paterson had a real chance to change things.

The state-controlled MTA was running out of money to run trains and buses; it faced a $1.5 billion deficit, or 15 percent of spending.

And nobody had any idea where the MTA would get funds for its capital budget — stuff like replacing tracks so trains don’t crash.

With the state in its deepest fiscal crisis in a generation, people — including Paterson — were talking about how New York couldn’t go on the way it had, with no questions asked when giving away the store to public workers.

He could have used the MTA as an example of how we had to change; instead of just standing by as employee-benefits costs kept eating up public monies, leaving too little for actual transit, the state could put riders and taxpayers first.

What did Paterson do?

* He never told transit workers that then wasn’t the time for a raise, and that they’d have to pitch in more for their health-care costs. (TWU members pay $1,000 or so a year for care, while the MTA spends five figures per family a year.)

* He never called for Albany to change the rules that send labor contracts to binding arbitration when both sides can’t agree. Such a change would give the MTA leverage in negotiations.

* He never called for Albany to change the retirement age from 55 (with flexibility for hard-labor job titles).

Instead, Paterson kicked the deal to arbitration, without even trying for a hard contract.

And what did the unaccountable "arbitrators" decide? They gave union workers 11.4 percent raises over three years, with no work-rule improvements to speak of, and a backslide on health-care payments. We all pay — an extra $272 million a year by now.

Paterson’s other contribution to the MTA was the agency’s bailout that May. Thanks to his deal with the Legislature, downstate employers, including the self-employed, now fork over a collective $1.2 billion a year in "mobility tax." (It was $1.5 billion, until Cuomo provided some relief in his tax-hike deal with the Legislature late last year.)

The bailout was yet another missed chance for Paterson to say what was really wrong at the MTA. But he instead blamed the agency’s problems on the MTA’s Spitzer-era chief, and brought in supposed transit visionary Jay Walder from London.

What did Walder do as MTA chief? Well, he spent some time looking for a better gig, since he took off for Hong Kong after just a couple of years on the job.

Meanwhile, the transit "community" is now agitating for a new bailout — er, "revenue stream."

It would be one thing if Paterson were to own up to this history — and use his position on the board to push for fixes. The MTA is still in crisis: It will spend $1.3 billion apiece in pension and health costs this year. And the TWU’s contract is up again.

The real problem here, though, is Cuomo.

By tapping Paterson, he’s signaled the TWU and the MTA’s leadership: Keep on with business as usual, even if you have to melt down the tracks to sell as scrap to pay the workers.

Get ready for a lot more subway announcements that apologize for the inconvience.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/andrew_transit_travesty_eldKUM0mIPx8shr5wHZL7L

 

 
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