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NEW YORK CITY-The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board voted unanimously Wednesday morning to close a $383-million budget gap with service cuts. If implemented beginning next June, the cuts would include reducing or eliminating subway and bus lines, as well as phasing out discounted fares for students in 2010 and 2011. The MTA will hold public hearings before implementing the cuts.

When the proposed budget was presented at a Monday meeting of MTA’s finance committee, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer called it “inexcusable” that the agency was planning to eliminate the fare discount for students. The New York Times quoted Andrew Albert, chair of the New York Transit Riders Council, as saying it was “a complete failure of government” that the MTA–and riders–should face this predicament.

Along with wiping two subway lines and several bus lines off the transit map, the MTA will reduce late-night and weekend service and reduce payroll expenses by 10%. The MTA blames several factors including a $143-million shortfall in tax revenues from the state and a state Supreme Court judge’s decision that the agency must honor $91 million worth of raises for unionized employees.

In a release, the MTA says it’s required by law to balance its budget, and CFO Gary Dellaverson says this will not be done through fare increases, as the agency has already promised not to hike fares next year. Regarding the student discounts, the MTA notes that at one time it split the subsidy equally with the city and state, but the city pulled its funding in 1994 and the state has decreased its share over the years.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, chairman Jay Walder reportedly called for a top-to-bottom review of the MTA’s finances. “In the two months that I’ve been here, it’s apparent to me that we don’t operate in a way that ensures that every taxpayer dollar that we receive is being used as effectively as possible,” the Times quoted Walder as saying. He expressed regret that the cuts could not be avoided.

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