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Don’t steal from MTA funds to balance state budget: Vacca

City Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx) has appealed to Gov. David Paterson and other state leaders to keep their hands off money meant for the cash-starved New York City transit system.

Besides Vacca, the new chairman of the Council Transportation Committee, the letter was also signed by transit advocates.

“Straphangers face the real possibility of additional service cuts or fare hikes if the MTA cannot identify steady funding sources,” the letter said. “At a time when the state should be focused on shoring up the future of mass transit funding and restoring the $143 million that was diverted last year, conducting another ‘sweep’ would send a terrible message.”

Besides Vacca, those signing the letter were Gene Russianoff, attorney for the transit advocacy agency Straphangers Campaign, Kate Slevin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives.

“Denying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority any additional funds from its dedicated tax stream at this time would be a short-term fix with severe long-term consequences,” the letter said. “We urge you to take a different route.”

It was sent to Paterson, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn).

The state, also in financial straits, last year diverted $143 million from a fund specified for mass transit and the result was heavy cuts in subway and bus service. The state later diverted nearly $17 million in MTA-dedicated money.

The MTA faces an $800 million budget gap as the result of plunging tax receipts and other sources of money designated for the transit agency, which has carried out consolidations and layoffs in an effort to close the budget gap.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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