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Budget

The Brian Lehrer Show

The Big Plan

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled his 2013-2014 budget. We discuss the $136.5 billion spending plan. Then, Reihan Salam of the National Review reflects on the President’s inaugural address. Plus: the parallel motivations of suicide bombers and rampage shooters; why recent rulings might protect what you post on social media – even if you’re dissing your boss; and your calls on the person who opened your eyes to a new way of thinking.

Transportation Nation

Governor Cuomo's Budget: $6 Billion for Sandy Recovery to MTA, Port Authority

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gov. Cuomo assessing flood damage after Sandy. (Image courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

Governor Andrew Cuomo is offering more details on how he'd like to spend federal Sandy recovery funds -- even though Congress hasn't yet passed the legislation. When he unveiled his $142 billion budget Tuesday, Cuomo laid out how the state will allocate a hoped-for $30 billion in aid, including:

  • $2 billion for replacement or mitigation of 2,000 miles of highway
  • $6 billion for mitigation for MTA and Port Authority, including vent covers, tunnel bladders and pumping capacity to protect transit tunnels.
  • $159 million for coastal mitigation – $34 million to repair Fire Island inlet and $125 for “soft barriers” like dunes on beaches
  • $2 billion to harden energy utilities

Read Anna Sale's story at WNYC.

Related:
NY’s South Ferry Station Closed for Foreseeable Future (link)
As PATH Resumes after Sandy, Questions Remain about Agency, Flood Plans (link)
Totaling Sandy Losses: How New York’s MTA Got to $5 Billion (link)
Transit in NYC Suffers “Worst Devastation Ever” (link)

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New Jersey News

Budget Cuts Loom as Shortfall Tops $700M

Friday, January 04, 2013

With New Jersey facing a $705 million budget shortfall that could easily double by June, the Senate Democratic budget chairman yesterday called upon the Christie administration to lay out a plan to close the gap before the size of the deficit becomes virtually unmanageable.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Sandy Relief: Congressmen Nadler and Grimm React

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Late last night, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would not vote on a Sandy aid package, after the Senate passed a $60 billion package. Staten Island's Michael Grimm and Jerrold Nadler, U.S. Representative for New York's 8th congressional district, react to the decision.

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Annotations: The NEH Preservation Project

How Sound is the President's Budget?

Friday, December 28, 2012

WNYC

In this episode from Northwestern University Reviewing Stand, a panel of experts discusses Dwight Eisenhower's 1956 budget message. Were those different times? Former director of the Congressional Budget Office Rudolph Penner compares the budget struggles of yesteryear with today's.

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Slate Political Gabfest

Slate: The Doomsday Scenario Gabfest

Friday, December 07, 2012

Slate's Political Gabfest, featuring David Plotz, John Dickerson and Emily Bazelon. This week: Inching toward the fiscal cliff, Republican soul-searching and a debate over a horrifying photo.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA Takes On Major Debt Rather Than Raise Tolls & Fares To Pay For Sandy

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NY MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.

(New York, NY - WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority held a board meeting Wednesday -- its first after Sandy -- and the main topic was how to solve a conundrum: filling the $5 billion hole that the storm blew in the agency's budget while simultaneously rebuilding New York's damaged transportation system.

NY MTA Chairman Joe Lhota seemed determined to assure the public that the agency, at the very least, had a plan. He began by saying revenue will not be raised by additional increases to planned toll and fare hikes in 2013 and 2015.

"The burden of Sandy will not be upon our riders," he said. "I have an enormous amount of confidence in our federal government that we will receive a substantial amount of money to get us back to the condition of functionality we had the day before the storm."

He said he didn't expect to see service cutbacks--though he didn't rule them out--and that he'd stick to a pledge to add or restore $29 million in subway and bus service.

Lhota said he is expecting FEMA and insurance to pick up 75 percent of the $5 billion tab. And he's hoping FEMA will boosts its reimbursement up to 95 percent. But the MTA can't count on that. As of now, the authority is on the hook for $950 million, which it needs right away to rebuild.

They'll get it by issuing $950 million in bonds. Lhota said the move will add $125 million to the authority's debt burden over the next three years. The best Lhota could say about where the money would come from is "cost-cutting measures" that are "unidentified at this time."

The MTA is paying $2 billion dollars in debt service this year. By 2018, debt service is expected to gobble up 20 percent of the authority's revenue. That's before figuring in the nearly $1 billion in debt that it voted to add Wednesday.

Lhota said the budget setback would not stop the authority's megaprojects, which are funded by its capital program. The Second Avenue subway, the East Side Access tunnel between Long Island and Grand Central Terminal, and the 7 train extension are essentially funded and nearing completion. Sandy delayed their construction but didn't flood them.

Today's decision to bring on more debt raised an alarm with Gene Russianoff of the New York Straphangers Campaign, an advocacy group. "Funding these needs by MTA bonds will increase pressure on fares through increased debt service - and it sets a troubling precedent for the funding of the next five-year capital program starting in 2015," he said in a statement.

Lhota added that all of the $5 billion will be spent on restoring transit to its pre-Sandy state. (Repairing the South Ferry Station alone is projected to cost $600 million.) None of the funds will be used to harden the system against future storms. That's going to take a whole other pile of money that hasn't been located yet.

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WNYC News

After Election, Congress Turns To 'Fiscal Cliff,' Other Money Issues

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The lame-duck Congress has just weeks to jump to the rescue of an economy moving closer and closer to the so-called fiscal cliff — a $600 billion cluster of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes due to hit at year's end.

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On Being

Sen. Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin — Political Bridge People

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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On Being

[Unedited] Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin with Krista Tippett

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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WNYC News

White House Details 2013 Cuts If Congress Doesn't Avert Fiscal Cliff

Friday, September 14, 2012

Under orders from Congress, the administration detailed exactly how it would administer painful cuts to both defense and domestic programs that were ordered under last year's budget deal. But the Office of Management and Budget reiterates that the threat of cuts is meant to spur congressional action.

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World Weekly with Gideon Rachman

A contentious running mate

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A contentious running mate

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Transportation Nation

Analysis: Picking Ryan Means Picking Fight on Transportation

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

 

Congressman Paul Ryan speaks at a Romney Rally in Manassas, Virginia, Sunday. (Photo by Flickr user monkeyz_uncle)

“Sharp” is a word you may have heard a lot these past few days. It’s a favorite descriptor for Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who became Mitt Romney’s running mate as of Saturday morning. Sharp, say friends and foes alike, are Ryan’s appearance, his mind, his criticisms of President Barack Obama, the spending reductions he favors—and now, somewhat suddenly, the contrast between the policies embodied by the presumptive Republican challengers and those of the incumbent Democrats. It is a perceived sharpness that itself stands in contrast, of course, to Mitt Romney’s pre-Ryan candidacy, which many commentators found too muddled and many conservatives found too moderate.

Take transportation, for instance. Romney, as this blog observed, spoke and behaved as a metro-friendly moderate when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s transportation budgets were modally balanced, with an emphasis on fixing what already existed, and he worked hard to create a new state agency to encourage smart growth development and sustainability. A candidate who still believed in those principles might not have many sharp things to say about transportation in a debate with President Barack Obama.

The Obama Administration subscribes to the belief, by no means exclusive to liberals, that infrastructure spending is crucial to creating jobs and keeping America competitive. Judging from Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint, the newly tapped V.P. candidate takes issue not with just the dollar figures required to test Obama's idea, but the philosophy itself.

As high-speed rail advocates and transit-friendly bloggers are already aware, Ryan will bring plenty of sharp contrast to the presidential campaign. Yonah Freemark of Transport Politic put it neatly:

“Mr. Ryan voted against every piece of transportation legislation proposed by Democrats when they controlled the lower chamber between 2007 and early 2010, with the exception of a bill subsidizing the automobile industry to the tune of $14 billion in loans in December 2008. This record included a vote against moving $8 billion into the highway trust fund in July 2008 (the overall vote was 387 to 37), a bill that was necessary to keep transportation funding at existing levels of investment. Meanwhile, he voted for a failed amendment that would have significantly cut back funding for Amtrak and voted against a widely popular bill that would expand grants for public transportation projects. He did vote in favor of the most recent transportation bill extension.”

These votes of Ryan's weren’t a matter of toeing the party line, either. Republican House Transportation Chairman John Mica, for instance, took the other side on every one of these votes except the failed amendment cutting funding for Amtrak.

But no budget hawk is perfect. Ryan did show a certain weakness for transportation dollars back when George W. Bush was President. In July of 2005, he joined the 412-8 majority in voting for the infamously pork-laden, “bridge-to-nowhere”-building reauthorization bill SAFETEA-LU. And then he sent out a press release listing all of the earmarks he had won for his district, including $7.2 million for the widening of I-94 between the Illinois state line and Milwaukee, $3.2 million for a bypass around Burlington, and $2.4 million for work on I-43 in Rock County. Small authorizations were also secured for preliminary engineering work on the Kenosha streetcar expansion project and Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. Ryan’s press release boasted that the state of Wisconsin was still a donee state, getting back $1.06 for every federal tax dollar, up from $1.02 the previous authorization. But “there’s no gas tax increase, and it draws on the Highway Trust Fund – not general revenues – for transportation spending, and it’s fair for Wisconsin gas tax payers.”

Five years later, as we know, it became unfashionable, gauche even, to be seen indulging in earmarks and other federal largess. In November 2010, that Tea Party autumn, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship of Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin after a campaign that made a major issue of the Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail “boondoggle.” In a television commercial, Walker said he’d rather use the $810 million to fix Wisconsin’s roads and bridges. But the money wasn’t fungible. As Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott soon had to admit, turning down the money only meant re-gifting it to high speed rail projects in other, bluer, more grateful states.

Paul Ryan tried to change that. Just a few days after Walker’s election, he and two fellow Wisconsin Republicans co-sponsored legislation in the House to order returned high-speed rail money deposited into the general fund for the purposes of deficit reduction. The bill would have changed the political dynamic of federal high-speed rail funding had it passed, placing new pressure on any governor who accepted those grants. For whatever reason, the bill never left committee.

When Ryan became Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in 2011, he put forth a 2012 budget that, reflecting Ryan’s commitment not to raise the gas tax or draw from the general fund, reduced transportation spending from its 2011 level of $95 billion gradually down to $66 billion in 2015. That was at a time when the Obama Administration was proposing a six-year infrastructure outlay of $476 billion “to modernize the country’s transportation infrastructure, and pave the way for long-term economic growth.”

But there’s the rub. Chairman Ryan refutes that premise. In his budget, transportation spending is not economic investment. To quote the 2013 budget:

In the first two years of the Obama administration, funding for the Department of Transportation grew by 24 percent–and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year. The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending. Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

The document goes on to say that the country’s fiscal challenges make “long-term subsidization infeasible,” and that “high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services.” (It’s unclear whether Ryan believes that new highways should also be built as self-supporting commercial services. But he should give Rick Perry a call before saying so publicly.)

With Ryan now on the Republican ticket, one can see more clearly the (sharper) contours of the general election debate, and infrastructure spending might just have a starring role. It’s there in the debate over the federal budget, and the federal funding role. It’s at the crux of the hullabaloo over “You didn’t build that” (a government theory Elizabeth Warren articulated better). And it will be there when Paul Ryan debates Amtrak Joe.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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WNYC News

Who 'Owns' The Bush Tax Cuts?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Democrats opposed the Bush tax cuts in the early 2000s. But now President Obama is calling for a second extension of the cuts for some Americans, and Republicans are lining up in opposition. So whose tax cut is it anyway?

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WNYC News

In Final Budget Hearing, Child Care, After-School Cuts Are Hot Topics

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Cuts to the subsidized child care and after-school programs in the mayor's budget proposal dominated the discussion Wednesday during the final hearing before the City Council begins wrangling with the administration for restoration of funds.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Parents and Tight Public School Budgets

Monday, June 04, 2012

Kyle Spencer, freelance education reporter and New York Times contributor, discusses parents digging deeper into their pockets to relieve tight public school budgets

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WNYC News

Budget Wrangling to Begin As Hearings Wind Down This Week

Monday, June 04, 2012

The City Council wraps up hearings this week on Mayor Bloomberg's executive budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013. The public is invited to weigh in on Wednesday afternoon, the final day of hearings.

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WNYC News

Union Contests Expansion of County Exec’s Power in Nassau

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A New York labor union is trying to block a measure that would give Nassau County’s executive power to make $40 million cuts in the budget without legislative backing.

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The Takeaway

Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poverty is one of the most pressing and divisive issues of our day, and Democrats and Republicans have staked out largely different approaches to the increasing divide between the poorest members of the United States and the richest. With the economy central to the November elections, the wealth gap will likely only become even more talked about in the months to come. Peter Edelman, one of the most outspoken antipoverty advocates in the country, examines the current state of poverty in the country, and elaborates upon what can be done — and what hasn't.

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Features

Library Presidents Urge City Council to Restore Funds

Monday, May 14, 2012

The New York City Council met Monday morning to discuss Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed $100 million in budget cuts to the city's three library systems. Presidents from the libraries urged the council to restore the proposed cuts so they could avoid laying off hundreds of workers, closing library branches and limiting the number of books they can purchase.

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