The final two pieces of the Democratic puzzle have fallen into place. After closed-door meetings in Albany on Monday, the final two Democratic holdouts in the State Senate — Craig M. Johnson and Brian X. Foley, both of Long Island — have agreed to support the latest iteration of the MTA funding plan.
This plan, according to reports, will generate approximately $1.7 billion in revenue for the beleaguered MTA. It culls this money from a small payroll tax in the counties in and around New York City that receive MTA service, a 50-cent taxi drop-off surcharge and higher fees for car registration and driver’s licenses.
William Neuman and Nicholas Confessore of The Times had more on the back-room politicking that has resulted in something of an MTA funding plan:
The senators said they were swayed by a commitment from Gov. David A. Paterson to reimburse school districts for the cost of a payroll tax that is the centerpiece of the rescue plan.
Mr. Johnson said that after discussing the issue with the majority leader, he was comfortable that “the residents of school districts are going to be protected appropriately when it comes to school taxes.”
Mr. Johnson and Mr. Foley said, however, that their support was contingent on the final wording of the rescue legislation, which is still being negotiated.
“There’s a framework that we believe we have agreed upon,” Mr. Smith said. “However, as I will always tell people, the devil’s in the details.”
Without this funding plan in place, the MTA is prepared to enact a Doomsday budget scenario. Service across the city will be scaled back or eliminated, and the fares will skyrocket by nearly 25 percent. Our precious 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCards would cost $103.
As The Daily News’ Glenn Blain and Pete Donohue note though, the Senate plan will roll back those hikes and cuts. According to the two reporters, the MTA will increase the base fare to $2.25 instead of $2.50, and monthly MetroCards will cost $88. Meanwhile, the MTA will be able to mainatin the bus and subway routes scheduled for elimination, and service can remain at current levels.
For now, this is something of a victory for transit advocates. The state is, pending passage of this bill, finally providing for a dedicate source of revenue for the MTA. This is not just a one-year stop-gap measure. This payroll tax and taxi surcharge will remain in place in perpetuity.
However, all is not well with the MTA and this plan. As it stands right now, this plan will generate around $1.76 billion for the transit system. With a projected deficit this year of $1.8 billion and a projected deficit of over $2 billion for 2010, this new money will be just enough for the MTA to get by. I’ll examine the capital funding issues later today, but prospects are hazy, at best, for the MTA’s state of good repair program and its expansion plans.
Politically, for now, this move will reassure the voting public in New York that the State Senate is keeping an eye on transit. I don’t really trust that eye, and I don’t really see our legislature dedicated to a long-term solution. Today, though, Doomsday is one step closer to being one step further away.