Green Party Position on How to Save CENTRO

The Green Party of Onondaga County supports a robust public transit system serving Syracuse and Onondaga County.  For the 31% of the people in Syracuse who do not own cars or cannot drive due to health or disability, CENTRO is a lifeline to work, shop, recreate, and be an active member of our community.  For others, using public transit is a choice and CENTRO enables them to leave their cars at home, save money, and reduce our carbon foot print.  Students, in particular, ride CENTRO to our local public schools, colleges and universities.


These are not the first cuts that CENTRO has imposed on our community.  Many Syracuse and suburban neighborhoods currently have no CENTRO service in the late evenings and very limited service on weekends.  Cuts that are now proposed to close the $4.5 million  budget gap would further reduce evening and weekend service.  These cuts come at a time when Syracuse and Syracusans are facing hard economic times and would further exacerbate the situation.  People who rely on CENTRO to get them to and from work in the evening and on weekends might be forced to give up their jobs, causing economic harm to themselves and to the businesses that employ them, most notably hospitals, nursing homes, retail stores and restaurants.   Businesses would also lose the commerce from those who use public transit for evening and weekend shopping.  While losing CENTRO services will drive many back into their cars, these cuts have the most significant impact on households without the income to own and maintain a car, persons with disabilities and the elderly.  For these individuals, public transit is not a luxury, it is a lifeline.


The Green Party of Onondaga County proposes a number of alternatives to proposed CENTRO service cuts that would enhance revenue to not only maintain but also improve service over the short and long term:


  • Enhanced State Revenue for Public Transit:  while the Governor’s proposed state budget has a 2% increase, funding for public transportation has been flatlined.  At a minimum, the state budget should increase funding for public transit by 2%

  • Increased Gas Tax:  The state should raise the gas tax and dedicate it to public transit, or give Syracuse/Onondaga County local authority to raise the tax and dedicated the increased revenue to CENTRO.  This would not only enhance public transit revenue, but would also encourage those with cars to use public transit.

  • Single Payer Health Care:   A longer-term solution to CENTRO’s budget shortfalls is the implementation of a New York State single payer health care system.  CENTRO’s cost of employee medical coverage is projected at $11.4 million, a $1.9 million increase from FY15 to FY16.  A single payer system would save more than twice CENTRO’s projected budget deficit of $2.4 million.  This system would reduce health care costs to all employers, including CENTRO, and may be enough to not only close CENTRO’s budget gap but also provide revenue to enhance transit services.

  • Local Income Tax:  CENTRO service cuts will hit residents hard, but will have the most negative impact on poor people who cannot afford alternative transportation.  If the state won’t meet its public transmit mandate and provide adequate funding to CENTRO to serve the transit needs of local residents, then the state should give Onondaga County the authority to tax ourselves to equitably provide this service with a local, progressive income tax, where the fiscal burden is shared equitably according to ability to pay.  


Therefore, at this time we need to take the fight to our NYS legislative delegation and demand that the state pay fully for public transit.  If they will not do that, then they need give us the authority to pay for transit ourselves in an equitable fashion, such as a gas and/or local income tax. And the Assembly, where a majority of members say they support single payer health care in NYS, should take the first step toward single payer and pass the New York Health bill now.      


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As a political party we work to establish political action based on cooperation, rather than exploitation, on conservation rather than consumption, and on sustainability rather than short-term gain. We believe in an alternative, independent politics.