Both The Times and Politicker NY are reporting that a revolt in the Senate has left the Republicans in charge of the state’s legislative body. Pedro Espada, Jr., and the legally embattled Hiram Monserrate voted with the State Senate’s 30 Republicans to approve a change in leadership. Espada is the temporary Senate president, and Dean Skelos, the former minority leader, will take over the majority position from Malcolm Smith.
For now, Epsada and Monserrate are not calling themselves Republicans. The two say they will form their own caucus of “reform Democrats” and will probably side with state Republicans in Senate votes. While the two shifted parties ostensibly because of Espada has termed a “quagmire” and “chaos” in the Senate since the Democrats took over, the immediate ramifications are unclear. For now, it appears as though Gov. David Paterson’s gay marriage proposal is DOA.
What, though, of the MTA bailout? In a few weeks, the Democrat-approved payroll tax will go into effect, and it has so far proven to be wildly unpopular with areas outside of the five boroughs. The Metro-North corridors and LIRR counties are not too happy about another tax for the NYC-focused MTA.
As the bailout talks went on in the Senate, Skelos repeatedly expressed his displeasure at being left out, and while Paterson tried to reach across the aisle once or twice, the plan that passed did so with the support of the 32 Democrats. Right now, though, I can’t imagine the Republicans doing anything to upset the current rescue plan. Doing so would send the MTA into a stunning bit of turmoil ten days after the drop-dead date for the original Doomsday budget.
The future though is murky for the beleaguered transit agency. The G.O.P leadership will put more pressure on the MTA to undergo heavy internal belt-tightening, and the financial future of the next five-year capital plan remains cloudy. I’ll try to round up more views on the MTA’s future in light of the shifting political winds, but with a leadership structure in flux and the onset of political turmoil in Albany, I am not optimistic.
Update 5:30 p.m.: In a statement released this afternoon, Dean Skelos pointed to the MTA rescue plan as one of the problematic actions of the Democratic majority. That is not a good sign for the MTA and its backers.