Testimony Submitted by Communications Director Brian Nevin at MTA public hearing on Wed, March 23, 2011
On behalf of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, I thank you for the opportunity to address you all at this public hearing. I think we all can agree that Nassau County is facing hard economic times. In fact, the entire State of New York faces many challenges.
It is crucial in times such as these, that government as well as Public Authorities such as the MTA root out the waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars. County Executive Mangano is doing just that in Nassau County. As a result, the County is operating with the lowest employee headcount since the 1950s.
It is no secret that the MTA is known for astronomically high salaries. Even though the MTA claims to be “financially strapped,” a state audit conducted by State Comptroller DiNapoli’s office concluded that the MTA spends $560 million annually on overtime, which equals the cost of employing an extra 7,000 full-time staffers. This same audit also concluded that if unnecessary overtime were eliminated, the MTA could save an estimated $56 million a year in overtime costs. In fact, between 2005 and 2009, the MTA’s annual overtime costs increased 26% to $590 million. Amazingly enough, there were 3,274 employees whose overtime pay for the year equaled at least 50 percent of their annual salaries and 147 employees whose overtime pay exceeded their salaries.
Disturbingly, not only did the state find that the MTA is mismanaging its budget, but last year Newsday analyzed 2009 payments to 5,600 full-time MTA employees and found that:
- · 27% earned more than $100,000. That’s more than any other transit agency.
- · 139 Long Island Rail Road employees doubled their salaries through extra payments, including OT and “penalties” for violations of union work rules.
- · Of employees earning more than $100,000, 59% of their total compensation was for pay above their base salaries.
These statistics indicate that the MTA has failed to root out waste within the Authority. Nassau County taxpayers should not be forced to fund a bailout for the Authority’s excessive spending and poor fiscal mismanagement practices.
It is these lavish spending habits that have caused the MTA to cut Long Island Bus service in the past and have caused this hearing to take place today. Let me be clear. The MTA is putting bus drivers out of work, not Nassau County.
County Executive Mangano is protecting the taxpayers of Nassau County who already pay the MTA nearly $100 million more than ever through the job-killing payroll tax. Simply put, County Executive Mangano will not allow Nassau County to become an ATM for the MTA’s failure to control costs.
Statements laying the blame on Nassau County are misguided and should be redirected toward the MTA, who has demanded that Nassau taxpayers contribute $35 million; and now offer a 56% service cut while still wanting $18 million more.
Together with NIFA’s recent action to impose a control period over County finances, the County simply cannot comply with the MTA’s demand. Homeowners and employers cannot afford a property tax increase to fund the MTA’s bloated budget and County Executive Mangano refuses to make Nassau County’s property owners suffer any more financial pain than they already are today.
Since taking $100 million more than ever from Nassau taxpayers through the job-killing payroll tax, the MTA has applied no credit for these dollars toward the LI Bus system. Instead, they have cut services for riders, the disabled and our students. In fact, the MTA is using our tax dollars to subsidize New York City’s transportation system. Residents are outraged.
The MTA’s mismanagement and little care for Long Island taxpayers’ comes as no surprise. Newspapers throughout the State have reported time and time again about the bureaucratic waste of tax dollars at the MTA. The MTA has takem our wallets for a ride by:
• Allowing 97 percent of Long Island Rail Road workers over age 50 who retired with 20 years of service to receive disability payments – this is three to four times the national average for railroads;
• Approving a $350,000 annual salary for its’ Chairman, along with a $500,000 taxpayer-funded golden parachute should he be fired;
• Paying 8,074 employees over $100,000 in 2009;
• Paying employees when they aren’t even working;
• Getting caught red-handed with two sets of financial books; and
• Failing to properly inspect nearly 50 percent of the Long Island Bus fleet.
A public-private partnership formed to operate Long Island Bus makes sense for taxpayers. Residents will finally have additional accountability for their tax dollars. The private sector will run bus service more efficiently and effectively while NOT holding our taxpayers hostage for increased revenue year after year.
Over the coming weeks, Nassau County will release a public-private partnership plan for Long Island Bus that will restore much of the MTA’s proposed 56% route cuts.
In closing, I would like to thank the MTA all for allowing me to submit this testimony into the record. County Executive Mangano remains committed to bringing financial relief to Nassau County. Although he urges the MTA to rethink their demands, he also invites the MTA to work with Nassau County to transition to another operator.