Apr
28

Albany ready to approve anything that will pass

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As a current law student with a background in American history and political science, I’m more than a little dismayed about the recent news coming out of Albany.

According to numerous reports, Senate and Assembly leaders no longer really care about the substance of any MTA funding plans. Rather, our elected officials tasked with representing the city’s and state’s interests are going to support any plan as long as it has the requisite number of votes. If that isn’t a total derogation of political responsibility, I don’t really know what is.

“It’s not about merit, it’s just about what gets us there with the votes that we need to get it passed,” Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said late on Monday.

Smith was not alone in these sentiments. “I can support a bill that has 32 votes in the Senate that we can look at seriously,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, echoing Smith’s committment to, well, anything.

Albany started down the path to this sad state of affairs early on Monday. As the MTA Finance Committee sat through a presentation on the agencie’s ever-increasing deficit, the Senate Transportation Committee approved some version of an MTA funding bill. The only problem is that that passed this bil as “a conversation starter.” Transpo Committee head Martin Dilan said that he expected a lot of amendments, and it’s quite possible that the eventual bill will look nothing like the one approved today.

Meanwhile, as the day wore on, it was clear that this Senate proposal would rile up a lot of opposition. Both Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated their opposition to the taxi surcharge plan.

In fact, when the dust settled, Albany watchers were prepared to call the latest proposal dead on arrival. With strident opposition from the state’s leaders, it’s unclear if Smith can round up 32 votes to support a plan that he admits is lacking on the merits.

The day ended with a closed-door meeting between Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. This meeting yielded nothing but more bad blood between Democrats and Republicans as the two legislative chambers continue to search for adequate funding measures.

“This should not be about Democrats and Republicans,” said Silver. “There are Republican commuters and there are representatives of Republicans who represent commuters who face the largest increases on the Long Island Rail Road who are not standing up and responding on this plan. They are standing and saying, ‘We are not voting for it because my Republican conference leader does not want me to vote for it.’”

The problem here — fairly obvious to transit experts — is that what will pass is not what will save the MTA from further fiscal problems. For years, the MTA hasn’t received proper state and city support, and these plans the Senate is currently debating are stop-gap measures aimed at closing a budget gap. They aren’t forward-looking plans that would discourage driving in New York City, encourage transit use and provide a steady revenue stream for a fully-funded MTA.

No matter what happens, no matter what plan 32 Senators eventually agree upon, it won’t be good enough, and that is a failure of New York State politics.



Categories : Doomsday Budget

7 Responses to “Albany ready to approve anything that will pass”

  1. Chris says:

    It’s a shame that it’s come to this. Albany shouldn’t be willing to approve anything that will pass, unless they’re willing to pass anything that will work.

  2. Jon says:

    Upstate has been bleeding Manhattan dry for years. No chance they will give anything back.

  3. Marc Shepherd says:

    Ben describes it as “a total derogation of political responsibility,” but what exactly does he expect them to do? Several better options have already been floated, and none of them can attract 32 votes in the Senate. At this point, almost any bill that helps the MTA would be better than doing nothing. As the old saying goes, “Politics is the art of the possible.” The best solutions—congestion pricing, the Ravitch plan—appear to be impossible.

    • Fairness says:

      I disagree. I feel it would be better to do nothing than to pass anything that isn’t a complete fix of the lack of dedicated funding for the MTA. A half ass plan will only put us back in this same exact situation next year or sooner.

      Bloomberg and the city need to pay there fair share which they haven’t been paying in over 20 years.

      • Marc Shepherd says:

        Well, that really is silly. You would actually prefer to see service cuts and massive fare increases now, if there were a plan that would avoid them? Thanks a bunch.

  4. grrrumpy miner says:

    Well,at the way things are going….do not be shocked if this doomsday budget goes through because this group of freaks running the asylum today,Governor Pataki and MTA chairs of today and chairs past have no clue how to run a railroad.With the bickering like little bitches and this doomsday budget…..ESP downstate where the MTA serves,don’t be shocked if most of if not ALL of the idiots running the state senate are voted out of office.How DARE those idiots screw us New Yorkers for their own personal needs and gains.

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