State Senator Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz are once again asking Governor Cuomo to do a forensic audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The lawmakers believe that now, before the governor appoints a new MTA chairman and chief executive officer, is the right time to have the authority’s finances publicly reviewed for corruption and waste. Cuomo will be appointing the person who succeeds the outgoing Jay Walder.
“There is no better time than now,” said Senator Ball said at a press conference held at Somers Town Hall surrounded by local officials from Somers and Yorktown. “We’ve known of corruption and gross mismanagement within the authority for years. We have an opportunity here, with new leadership at the helm, to get a fresh start and save taxpayers, communities and small-business owners millions of dollars.”
“The MTA is one of the most costly agencies in the nation, and it is completely irresponsible to ask the people, and employers, of New York State to spend one more dime funding this agency until a complete accounting of their finances is made public,” said Assemblyman Katz. “Furthermore, lawmakers and the public should be given time to review the findings to ensure that any corruption is rooted out and preventative measures be put into place to ensure the new MTA administration is more accountable and transparent. If what is being done at the MTA is not illegal, it should be.”
Both state lawmakers have been strong advocates of a forensic audit, with Ball leading the charge following the 2009 MTA bailout that included authorization of the authority’s payroll tax. Following strong public opposition for a payroll tax, which is imposed on every employer within the MTA’s 12-county service region, the state comptroller did agree to conduct an audit of the authority; however, his piecemeal audit has yet to focus on the underlying public concern with the MTA: payroll mismanagement. In fact, since “initiating” the audit, payrolls throughout the MTA have continued to skyrocket with some employees doubling or tripling their annual salaries through overtime payments.
At the same time, the authority has slashed services, particularly in the Hudson Valley, and lobbied Albany for other bailouts, including its most recent request for over $6 billion.
Following this request, MTA Chair and Chief Executive Officer Jay Walder abruptly announced his resignation. Governor Cuomo has since announced formation of a committee to assist him in replacing Walder; yet, many local residents and lawmakers are joining Ball and Katz in calling for the forensic audit to ensure a complete accounting of the MTA before a new administration gains control of the authority.
“In order to eliminate wasteful spending practices in the MTA they must first be definitively identified,” said Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy. “A top to bottom forensic audit of MTA spending by an independent audit firm is essential toward achieving our goal of elimination of the MTA payroll tax.”
“All levels of government need to understand that the middle-class families of the Hudson Valley cannot continue to act like an ATM to fund defunct organizations and backward policies,” stated Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy. “Whether the MTA payroll tax or the unemployment insurance fee we now have to pay, New York State continues to find ways to prevent both businesses and families from enjoying the fruits of their labor.”
Another Yorktown councilman, Nick Bianco, said, “New York State needs to begin protecting the taxpayers if we are ever going to emerge from the financial mess we are currently in. A forensic audit of the MTA would be the first step in rejuvenating the image of government for all New Yorkers, and especially here in Westchester County.”
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 48 percent of New Yorkers do not believe the MTA should be given any more taxpayer dollars.
The lawmakers encourage residents to join them in calling for an immediate forensic audit, before the governor appoints a new MTA chair and/or chief executive officer, by signing their online petition at www.auditthemta.com or by contacting the Governor’s office directly.