What the Plan Means
March 17th, 2009
Observers say that the Senate’s MTA plan means simply that Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith does not have control of his majority.† The” gang of three,” including Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Carl Kruger, put their collective foot down against tolling East River bridges–and Smith had to capitulate.
Smith’s plan would enact four percent fare increases and a tax of 25 cents on every 100 dollars of payroll in counties served by the MTA. It does nothing for the MTA’s capital budget. Smith’s plan is a far cry from the Ravitch plan, which would have imposed $5 tolls on bridges over the East River, created a .33 percent payroll tax, and increased fares by about eight percent.† The Senate plan also does far less to address the MTA’s financial problems than the $2-toll compromise plan presented by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver earlier this year.
Smith insisted during a press conference this morning that he would not act on the capital plan until a full forensic audit of the MTA’s finances took place. “We donít want to have an AIG situation with the MTA,” said Smith. He told press members present that he would likely address the plan later in the year. Smith said he intended to make funding for Long Island and upstate roads a part of the capital plan.
Critics say these concerns are covers for Smith’s impotence as majority leader.
The Senate plan has been called a “stopgap measure” by† Sheldon Silver, and MTA chairman Dale Hemmerdinger insisted at a press conference with Gov. David Paterson today that the Senate’s calculations were flawed. Hemmerdinger said that Smith’s plan is $1 billion short of plugging the MTA’s operating gap.
Gov. David Paterson said that he felt senators don’t grasp the gravity of the situation. He said the legislature needs to act now. “Pushing problems off into the future is going to only to accomplish what putting problems off into the future did in the 70s, which is creating all kinds of hardship.
Paterson said he would make himself available to all legislators to “urge them of the magnitude of this problem.” He also offered to meet with “both leaders” in the Senate to try to reach a consensus.
Transit advocates have been pushing for a bipartisan approach for months.
“We knew two weeks ago that the way out was to get bipartisan support in the Senate,” said Neysa Pranger of the Regional Plan Association.
Silver released a statement today saying, “I continue to believe that we must act now and that any viable solution must address both the immediate threat of a fare hike and service cuts and the long-term needs of our mass transit system.”
However, assemblymen who stand against tolls on the East River bridges say that this is a good start.
Assemblyman Jose Peralta said, “Any plan that doesnít have tolling is a much better plan.”† He went on to note that the Senate plan is not “an end all” and “now it is a matter of sitting down and negotiating.”By David King on March 17, 2009, 5:48 pm
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