Today’s news:

MTA now predicts deficit as $621M

The financial picture keeps getting darker for the MTA.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a new estimate of its debt Monday, projecting a $621 million deficit by 2009 even after fare and toll increases and service cuts that it plans to start soon.

The MTA’s problem keeps worsening because of a decline in real estate and other taxes intended to support mass transit.

Also, increasing unemployment and higher fares led the MTA to predict a 7.2 percent drop in ridership this year.

The report came at the monthly meeting of the MTA Finance Committee on Monday.

The MTA said real estate tax receipts were down by $336 million, fare and toll revenues down by $221 million and state taxes, which go to mass transit, were down by $113 million.

Without financial help from the state Legislature, the fare and toll hikes will have to start May 31 and heavy cuts in service on buses, subways and commuter railroads would follow.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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