At 11 a.m. today in a press conference at the Governor’s Office in midtown, Richard Ravitch will unveil his plan to save the MTA. With word of the plan out last week, the report won’t contain too many surprises. But as Ravitch gears up to launch a package that could, if approved, generate up to as much as $1.6 billion for the MTA, New York’s leaders are rounding up support for the plan.
In fact, Ravitch has already garnered the support of the state’s top actor. David Paterson has voiced his support for the recommendations in the proposal, and if other politicians — notably Mayor Bloomberg — fall into step, Ravitch may just be able to pull off the impossible. William Neuman writes about Paterson’s early praise:
Gov. David A. Paterson said for the first time on Wednesday that he supported a financial rescue plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that includes charging tolls on bridges over the East and Harlem Rivers. The plan, he said, would substantially reduce the size of a fare increase the authority had sought.
The governor also spoke favorably about a recommendation in the plan for a tax on company payrolls in the region. The measures are aimed at helping the authority overcome a projected $1.2 billion deficit next year and a gaping multibillion-dollar hole in its long-term capital budget.
The governor said he was still reviewing the plan, but was “quite pleased with what I see so far.” “As an alternative to a fare hike,” he said, “I think it’s very viable.”
In mounting an offensive early, Paterson is hoping to put the plan’s detractors — such as Micah Kellner — on the defensive. “The message we keep trying to deliver is that we are in a very difficult fiscal time, and so it’s either going to be fare hikes or it’s going to be tolls and a combination of payroll taxes, but it’s the only way,” the governor said. “Those who are upset about this, what I would urge them to consider is, it’s the inaction in the past that’s led to this overwhelming deficit. This is a very difficult endeavor, but we are trying to show leadership.”
Outside of the governor, Neuman writes as though Mayor Bloomberg will express his support on the condition of more city oversight for the MTA. I know many of the critics of the authority who see this financial crisis as a way for the government to assert more control over a bureaucracy many see as out of control.
Sheldon Silver, the assembly speaker and scourge of congestion pricing, voiced his support for the payroll taxes. He seems to be a bit lukewarm on the controversial East River and Harlem River crossings toll plan.
As outer borough reps and other opponents start voicing their concerns, the proponents of the Ravitch Plan have to make this into a discussion about costs. Either the riders shoulder the costs for a deficit by suffering through drastically increased fares and markedly worse service or the entire MTA region shares the burden through a minimal tax increase, a smaller fare hike (but no service cuts) and tolls on bridges that probably shouldn’t have been free in the first place. It’s a reasonable trade off, and we’ll soon find out if will for it to become a reality is there.