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Governor, MTA don’t put our children first

The state Legislature rightly rejected Gov. David Paterson’s original plan to cut $686 million from classrooms across the state, which would have been devastating by eliminating programs and faculties in the middle of the school year. The governor is now withholding 10 percent of school funding — $146 million — in his effort to fix the state budget.

But slashing or withholding school funding is not the answer to the state’s budget shortfall.

We must keep up the fight to ensure the funds needed to keep our schools open are delivered to local school districts and classrooms. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our children or cut programs they are in the middle of completing.

Also, it was six months ago that we were subjected to a 10 percent fare increase from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Now the agency is at it again, proposing more Draconian service cuts, including the elimination of two subway lines and 21 local bus routes, steep service reductions on dozens of additional bus and subway routes and cuts to the Access-A-Ride program and student MetroCards.

In my area, the cuts to the Q56 bus and the Z train would be devastating to working families, students and the local economy. Communities across the borough will suffer likewise. More than a half million of our students and children who receive free or discounted MetroCards would suffer.

The added cost of these students’ transportation will break the budgets of working families across the city, especially those not earning a living wage. Worse yet, it will break our kids’ will to learn.

Instead, the MTA must follow City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s (D-Manhattan) suggestions to reallocate $140 million of capital funds to temporarily close an unexpected gap in its operating budget.

More than $90 million in unspent federal stimulus aid may be allocated toward operating expenses through a congressionally sanctioned process known as “flex” and roughly $50 million in MTA operating funds being used to supplement the capital budget would help tremendously. The combined funding boost would be more than enough to offset the $129 million the MTA expects to save through cuts to subway and bus service citywide.

The MTA must also conduct its budget process in a more public and open fashion. It released this package of cuts one week before it will be voted on. Mandating these cuts with no public input is insulting to taxpayers and a slap in the face to New Yorkers.

Before these drastic changes are made, the MTA must give the public a chance to voice their concerns and examine its books. We demand transparency and public input.

Albert Baldeo

Ozone Park

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