New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio faced tough questions from state lawmakers about the city’s contribution to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday as officials in City Hall, the governor’s office and the Legislature continue to debate how to bail out a subway system beset by breakdowns and delays.
The Democrat told lawmakers at a budget hearing that the city, its residents and businesses already provide 70 percent of the MTA’s annual revenues and that it would be unfair to ask them to pay more. Instead, he said he favors higher taxes on high earners as a way to raise money for upgrades and repairs.
The mayor also said that while it is not his first choice, the proposal from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to charge motorists new tolls for driving into the city’s densest areas represents a big improvement over earlier so-called congestion pricing plans.
“There must be, I believe, at the end of this session a long-term funding mechanism” for the MTA, he said.
But approving a new revenue stream before lawmakers adjourn this spring or summer will be difficult, especially since Cuomo, de Blasio and lawmakers are still at odds over who should fund an agency that has become a political football kicked back and forth between Albany and the city. While the MTA oversees city transit, its chairman is appointed by the governor.
“I don’t understand why the city can’t contribute more,” said Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, the chairwoman of the Senate’s budget committee.
De Blasio’s annual budget testimony has become an Albany tradition and an opportunity for his legislative critics to question the mayor on his own turf. This year he testified for more than three hours, and faced detailed questions relating to city policing, public housing, taxes, the condition of school cafeterias and even a controversy over plans for an especially tall billboard in the Bronx.
The mayor also was expected to meet with Cuomo during his trip to the state Capitol. De Blasio began his second term last month.