There is an air of finality surrounding the news out of Albany tonight. The New York Times, Daily News and Newsday all reported the same sad story: Right now it looks as though there will be no MTA bailout.
According to numerous reports, the prospects for any sort of state action on the MTA in advance of the May fare hikes and service cuts have grown significantly dimmer than they were just 24 hours ago. The Assembly has gone home for the weekend; the Senate is still bickering over the state budget; and with a short week on tap next week and no solution acceptable to a majority of the Senate on the table, any chances for a real rescue plan are nearly dead. Meanwhile, one Senator is laid up in the hospital with pneumonia, and the Democrats would need her vote for any legislative action whatsoever.
“There are Democratic senators who won’t vote for the tolls and the Democratic senators who won’t vote for the mobility tax, and then the Republican senators, all of them, who won’t vote for anything,” Gov. David Paterson said yesterday. “So Right now, I think that, these elected officials have got to sit down, the senators, and at least have a plan.”
If this is starting to sound like Groundhog’s Day on a downward spiral, that’s because it is. Every day, the news gets a little worse, and more State Senators sound as though they have no idea what they’re talking about.
To whit, comments made on Wednesday by Craig Johnson and Brian Foley, two of the four suburban Senators opposing the payroll tax, via Newsday:
Johnson shot back that the payroll surcharge would be crippling to not-for-profits and spur higher school property taxes. He blamed MTA officials for the authority’s $1.2 billion deficit. “At this juncture we need to say ‘no’ and put it upon the MTA to come up with a reasonable solution,” he said.
Foley agreed, saying Suffolk businesses derive less benefit from mass transit than those in Nassau and New York City. He accused the MTA of “brinkmanship, trying to force our hand . . . and I won’t countenance that.”
Luckily, I don’t need to defend the MTA here. Richard Brodsky of Sheldon Silver’s suddenly rational New York State Assembly, did it for me:
Brodsky (D-Westchester), a frequent MTA critic, said such a financial review already has been completed and a state commission offered a “balanced” bailout plan in December that includes the payroll tax, modest fare hikes and tolls on the now-free East River and Harlem River bridges.
“Nobody loves the payroll tax, but you have to do more than say, ‘no.’ What is [the senators'] alternative?” he said.
Silver himself added a dig at the Senate too. “I think we need a time out,” he said. “Basically, they can’t be opposed to everything.”
Oh, Shelly, they can and are opposed to literally anything. Remember how Gov. Paterson organized an independent commission led by Richard Ravitch to conduct a thorough examination of the MTA’s finances and possible solutions for the budget gap? Remember he came back with a very long and very thorough tax-and-toll plan that called upon everyone to contribute?
Still, State Senators are insisting that the MTA has not set forth a “reasonable solution.” Still, State Senators are calling this “brinkmanship.” At some point, we the straphangers have to send a message to these State Senators: Get in touch with your constituents or get lost. These comments by Johnson and Foley are just another set in a long of idiotic statements that show an Albany ready, willing and able to throw New York City under the bus.
So as the MTA has begun reprogramming MetroCard machines and fare infrastructure in anticipation of enacting this Doomsday budget in May, we should rest uneasily knowing that the people who can avert disaster seem to know absolutely nothing about the MTA’s financial difficulties, let alone how to solve them.