Joseph Lhota, the MTA's new executive director, discussed the organization's nearly $10 billion budget gap at his first board meeting Wednesday and spoke out on necessary fare hikes. NY1’s Tina Redwine filed the following report.
Joseph Lhota won't be chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority until the state Senate votes on his nomination by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
For now, he's been appointed executive director, and at his first board meeting Wednesday, he made it clear that he’s in charge, saying he's focused on closing the MTA's nearly $10 billion budget gap.
“We'll be going to Albany. We'll be working here in New York City with the mayor's office on new and innovative ways to find additional funding. Not a day will go by where that does not happen,” said Lhota.
The MTA is already working on the assumption it won't get that money. Its budget calls for borrowing more than $6.5 billion. It’s not ideal, but Lhota said the agency can handle the debt payments.
“It does require, as I said, a day-to-day constant oversight and management,” said Lhota.
The executive director also has to try to convince the 34,000-member Transport Workers Union to agree to a new contract with no wage increase.
Norman Brown, a labor representative on the MTA board, said Lhota should keep in mind what he said about borrowing billions.
“If debt burden is not a big problem, I suggest you also make the case that the labor costs are not a big problem,” said Brown.
Lhota said no additional service cuts are in the works to save money, but he supports the budget's assumption that riders should expect fares to increase on a regular basis.
“Given our current cost structure and given our current revenue expectation, it's necessary,” said Lhota.
However, board member Allen Cappelli said he wouldn't vote for the fare increase already budgeted for 2013 unless the board discusses tolls on MTA bridges and tunnels.
“Some bridges are free and others people pay an enormous amount of money. It's geographically discriminatory,” said Cappelli.
Acting chairman Andrew Saul discouraged board members who asked for modest service restoration given the billions being borrowed. They will have their chance to vote against this operating budget next month.