For Whom the Bell Tolls
March 13th, 2009
State Senators have spent the week trying to discredit and dismiss the idea that they need to take action on an Metropolitan Transit Authority bailout before March 25. On that date the MTA says it will have to enact drastic fare increases and cuts to service.† In view of the Senateís inaction, the MTA is holding an emergency meeting today to deal with the impending fiscal crisis. But a number of Senators still say they won’t be “held hostage” by the MTAís deadline.
Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn says that the deadline represents a “false dichotomy.” “They are going to raise tolls no matter what we do. It is just a question of how much. They want a bailout, and I want reform,” said Parker.
Advocates of the bailout say the MTA has been open and forthcoming with financial information and that New Yorkers should not be burdened with fare hikes and service cuts because of how Senators feel about the transit authority.
This week Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens withdrew his support for tolls on East River bridges. There are now at least seven senators who openly oppose the toll plan, including, Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn,† Ruben Diaz,† Pedro Espada Jr and Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of the Bronx. The New York Times has an interesting editorial noting which senators New Yorkers should blame for fare hikes.
Parker and a number of his fellow Senators are trying to paint the MTA as rich fat cats who have mismanaged their business to the point that the public is now in danger. The MTA has a history of misrepresenting its finances.
“They are just like the banking industry. They are asking hard working American tax payers for a bailout,” said Parker. “Why should I trust their deadline? Why should I toll bridges when it is just a back door to congestion pricing?”
Parker, who is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said he thinks there is federal money that could be secured to bail the MTA out.
“The stimulus plan just passed there is money nationally available for transportation that we need to look at,” said Parker. Parker also has concerns that the MTA says its energy costs are going up even though it is cutting service and fuel costs have been declining nationally.
Despite his objection to the deadline and to implementing tolls, Parker said he thinks the Senate needs to and will come up with a solution for the MTA.† “We will have time after the budget,” said Parker before asserting, “Two weeks would be enough time to have a discussion about alternative ways to fund the MTA. We are legislators. We are used to chewing gum and walking at the same time.”By David King on March 13, 2009, 12:12 pm
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