MTA chair rips Senate Republicans over ‘Hunger Games’ airline bailout

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

By Robert Pozarycki

These days, the odds of getting help from the Republican-led Senate aren’t ever in the MTA’s favor — and that has Pat Foye fuming.

The chair of the cash-strapped public transit authority for the New York City area railed on Thursday against a Senate Republican proposal to provide $28 billion in aid to airline carriers struggling mightily during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s more than twice the current projected $12 billion MTA deficit that has the authority fighting for its survival. In his Thursday statement, Foye compared the lack of cooperation and help from Washington to “The Hunger Games,” the dystopian fantasy novel and film series.

“The Senate Republicans simply cannot create a Hunger Games approach to transportation funding,” Foye said. “The MTA and other public mass transit systems across the country are facing catastrophic service reductions, tens of thousands of layoffs, and fare and toll hikes without federal relief.”

Senate Republicans — who are in a hurry to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat on or about Election Day — have been slow to care about public transit, according to Foye, who charged that they’re “ignoring the massive needs of public transportation agencies across the country” while attempting to “prop up private airlines, which have billion-dollar stock market capitalizations.”

“The GOP bill to help the airlines exclusively is a slap in the face to the heroic mass transit workers who continue to keep cities moving during this unprecedented public health crisis. Any relief bill needs to include $12 billion for the MTA,” the chairman concluded.

Two Republican Senators — Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Susan Collins of Maine — introduced the airline bailout bill Monday. Reports indicate that up to 30,000 jobs nationwide might be lost in the aviation industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic due to travel restrictions.

For months, the MTA and other officials have begged Congress for help to close the $12 billion gap, incurred by a massive ridership drop and added expenses from operating and cleaning the entire system. Funding for transit services was included in the $3.2 trillion HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May, but the Senate — under the rule of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — hasn’t brought it to a vote.

At its Wednesday board meeting, MTA officials debated borrowing billions of dollars to help preserve jobs and services — but that would only add to the growing deficit down the road.

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