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Mayor Bill de Blasio reached an agreement with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on a new city budget, the New York Times reports. The $89.2 billion budget includes funding for discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. 6sqft reported last week on the deal struck between the mayor and the city council to provide about $100 million to fund the program. Johnson has been a tenacious and vocal supporter of the Fair Fares program, in which the city will subsidize the cost of providing half-price MetroCards to New Yorkers who fall below the federal poverty line, or a household income of $25,000 for a family of four. Nearly 800,000 New Yorkers could benefit from the discounted fares. The initial allocation in the budget will pay for six months of the program beginning in January, with further financing will be forthcoming in future budgets.
After months of back-and-forth between de Blasio and Johnson, the two officials closed the deal today with a ceremonial handshake. De Blasio had resisted adding the program to the city’s budget, favoring a plan that woudl tax the city’s wealthiest residents to pay for the subsidy, similar to a millionaires’ tax he also favors to fund subway repairs. The idea that wealthy residents should subsidize infrastructure improvements has been called “dead on arrival” in Albany by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In his first year as speaker, Johnson has made the Fair Fares program one of his top priorities. During a news conference he told reporters he had been talking to de Blasio “every single day about this.” The subsidy money will not go to the MTA, the mayor said, but will instead be handled by a city agency.The discounted MetroCards would mirror the fares currently subsidized for students, seniors, people with disabilities and roughly 40,000 others who receive cash assistance.
Some of these programs provide MetroCards for about $1.35 per ride, less than half the typical $2.75 rate for subway and bus fare. The City Council has estimated that 40 percent of those eligible would sign up, with the number of people enrolled doubling once the program is fully implemented. The full cost could be roughly $250 million.
The new budget comes in at about 19 percent higher than de Blasio’s previous budget (his first), which was a $75 billion spending plan approved in June 2014. A substantial increase in the number of city workers–about 300,000 workers–has been a big contributor to the budget increase and in making the city’s payroll the highest ever.
About the new budget, the mayor said, “It’s a strategic investment concept,” adding that city spending on police had made New York the nation’s safest big city, and investment in early childhood education had improved public schools, making the city more attractive to residents and businesses. “I think these were very smart investments.”
- Deal struck to fund discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers
- The history of the New York City MetroCard
- MTA’s new cardless fare system will be rolled out by 2020
- De Blasio wants to tax rich New Yorkers to fund subway repairs