Vacation is over for the legislators in Albany, and as our not-so-esteemed Senators and Assembly representatives make their collective ways back from the break, one topic will dominate the conversation this week. That topic is of course near and dear to our hearts: It’s the return of the MTA Budget debate.
When last we checked in on the politicking four days ago, Richard Ravitch had just issued a modified proposal. The new plan — aimed at addressing Democrats’ concerns — provided for a business rebate for frequent drivers coupled with a 50-cent taxi surcharge and higher garage taxes in Manhattan. The Usual Gang of Idiots in the State Senate didn’t like it, and the city was left on edge, awaiting this week’s debates.
Over the weekend, state leaders engaged in a good amount of peremptory politicking. Carl Kruger, one of the bigger obstructionist Senators, is getting desperate in his anti-MTA attacks. “He wanted to make this the Ravitch Rescue Plan,” Kruger said about Richard Ravitch last week. “I think that in itself says something. I call it the MTA money grab. So consequentially, this is not a question of who’s going to be a hero. There are only victims.”
Why Kruger is attacking a public servant intent on providing some sensible funding solutions to the MTA’s woes is beyond. Kruger has yet to offer up a valid reason, and while he claims he doesn’t support higher fares, his actions speak louder than his misguided words. Crain’s, the New York-based business journal, has called upon its readers to contact Kruger’s office and express their displeasure with the Senator and his anti-MTA cronies.
“The blame,” Crain’s opined this weekend, “for this dismal state of affairs rests clearly with the New York Senate, which has been unable to come to grips with this crucial issue because narrow interests are trumping the needs of the region.”
While Kruger attempted an attack, David Paterson and Richard Ravitch fought back. Rumors have been swirling that Paterson would like to put a May 1 deadline on Senate action, but the governor has denied a firm deadline. He hasn’t, however, held his punches. Saying there will be “no excuses” if the talks go beyond this week, he took aim at Kruger and the Senate too. “[Ravitch] brought back a plan that won the approval of every reasonable point of view from different sides,” he said at a Regional Plan Association luncheon last week. “Except in Albany. It’s a different planet. As we like to point out, there is no gravity.”
Heading into the week, the Democrats are set to caucus for a plan, and Paterson will be wooing Republicans. It’s do-or-die time for the Senate, and pro-transit New Yorkers are awaiting the outcome with bated breath. If the Senate fails, transit advocates will have to reassess the way we approach the State Senate, and the city, while losers in the short-term, should gain some very active and angry voices.