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Some Wonder If Troubled MTA Can Be Trusted To Wisely Spend Billions Generated By Congestion Pricing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A critical report charging Metropolitan Transportation Authority management with turning a blind eye to soaring overtime and cushy contracts is raising questions about the ability of the agency to wisely spend the billions of dollars expected to be raised from congestion pricing.

An outside auditor wasn't just whistling Dixie when she took MTA managers to task for sitting on their hands and doing nothing about spiraling overtime cost and a startling list of work rules that, simply put, bloat the budget.

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The findings have given rise to a simple question, one CBS2's Marcia Kramer asked Mitchell Moss, the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU, on Wednesday.

"Given this report, how can we trust the MTA to spend the money from congestion pricing wisely?"

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Drivers wait in traffic on Second Avenue as pedestrians cross in Midtown Manhattan during the morning rush hour April 1, 2008. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

"Well, that's the great challenge," Moss told Kramer. "Once New York decided to go with congestion pricing it put every public official in a forum where they now have to show that the money they're taking from people is going to be put to good use."

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Moss took pains to point put that bad management led to rules that:

* Give an extra day of pay to a worker who simply runs both an electric and a diesel engine on the same day

* Give an extra day of pay to Long Island Rail Road workers asked to switch jobs based on operational needs

* And overtime costs that soared to $1.3 billion last year, a 53% increase from 2014

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By law, congestion pricing will charge drivers an as-yet undisclosed fee to drive into Manhattan's Central Business District. It is set to go into effect in 2021.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a congestion pricing supporter, lays blame for budget bloat, not on the workers but on MTA management.

Can the agency spend the $1 billion a year from congesting pricing without wasting it?

"Its track record is awful, so I don't trust that they can. We have to keep a sharp eye on them to make sure that the decisions they're making are the smart ones," Gianaris said.

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Assemblyman David Weprin would love to see congestion pricing put on hold. He was against it from the beginning.

"As a lawmaker, I'm very skeptical about giving more money to the MTA before we see real action, real improvement in service and also in attitude towards to public," Weprin said.

A spokesman for the MTA said the agency is instituting new practices for controlling overtime.

The presidents of the Transit Authority, Metro-North, the LIRR and other MTA entities have been ordered to come up with new measures for fixing things before the next board meeting at the end of the month.

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