The MTA says its $14 billion budget deficit will severely impact the system's most basic maintenance and repair projects, not to mention large-scale upgrades like that 82%-complete 2nd Avenue line (today, the Federal Transit Administration predicted that, actually, we might be cruising below the avenue by "early 2017"). At an MTA Finance Committee meeting back in April, MTA CFO Bob Foran went so far as to say, "If we do not receive adequate funding to carry us through the next two years, we don't have sufficient funds to keep the program going."

But a new report from the city's Independent Budget Office shows that the MTA still has a good amount of its last capital budget—for the years 2010-2014—in its coffers. That budget allotted $31.9 billion to the MTA, only $18 billion of which had been allocated by the end of last year. 44% of that money is still hanging around.

Granted, a lot of the leftover money has been earmarked for Hurricane Sandy-related projects (that's another can of worms). Rule those out, and the MTA actually has only 33% of its subway-related money left over from the last Capital Plan.

Still, because of this leftover funding, even if the City and State come up short in closing the MTA's massive deficit for 2015-2019, subway repair and expansion efforts will not, in the words of an IBO press release, "come to a screeching halt."

To be clear, the IBO is not suggesting Albany shouldn't fund the MTA, just because the MTA isn't scraping pennies at this very minute. From the study: "If approval of the new Capital Plan is postponed beyond mid-2015, this will likely lead to greater than normal administrative and planning delays, as a certain amount of lead time is necessary before new projects can be initiated."

The study also examined capital spending in the MTA going back twenty years, and found that delayed spending is the "norm" in the MTA: by the end of the 2000-2004 and 2005-2009 periods, only about 45% of the capital budget had been spent.

In response to the report, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg stated that, rather than putting the MTA's deficit into question, this study actually reinforces the need to close the funding gap. "As the report notes, all recent capital programs have been approved after the plan period begins, and commitments and expenditures continue after the plan period ends," he said. Further:

"Without an approved and fully-funded 2015-2019 Capital Program, the MTA will be forced to make difficult choices between key priorities such as buying new subway cars, rail cars and buses, replacing tracks and rebuilding switches, installing more countdown clocks and extending the Second Avenue Subway into East Harlem. We appreciate the IBO's efforts to explain why delaying this vital work will hurt New York.”

A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.