While Gov. David Paterson called the latest Senate plan for the MTA “worth considering” and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith claims he has the votes to pass it, the fate of this new funding plan is far from clear. Already today, I’ve delved into the taxi surcharge problem. That appears to be just one of many hurdles this new bill faces.
First up is internal dissent among the state Democrats. According to The Times, four Senate Dems will not support a payroll tax. The new plan calls for a payroll tax for all 12 MTA counties, but the tax will be lower in the outlying counties. This makes no sense on its surface because it actually costs more to the MTA to serve those areas further away from the New York City core, but whatever. If it wins votes, it wins votes
The problem is that it’s not winning votes. “I remain opposed to the imposition and use of a payroll tax,” Craig M. Johnson, Democratic senator from Nassau County, said. He — along with fellow Democrats Brian Foley (Suffolk County), Andrea Stewart-Cousins (Westchester) and Suzi Oppenheimer (Westchester) — remains opposed to any and all tax plans.
With these four Democrats in opposition, Malcolm Smith would have to pick up four members of the state G.O.P. Senate contingent. As we learned last night, though, right now Republicans are opposed to the tax plan as well with maybe one — Frank Padavan of Queens — open to supporting this funding plan. Maybe.
Today, Republicans voiced anew their opposition to the plan and raised some valid concerns that transcend ideological lines. “It’s an insult to upstate and downstate,” Martin Golden, Brooklyn Republican, said. “We’re going to put $200 million in taxes on the backs of the cabdrivers and the people who live in the City of New York.”
Martin’s point is echoed in a brief piece by NY1. This new plan has all sorts of mismatched priorities. Basically, the cab fare increase, a hyperlocal way of raising revenue, would go to upstate projects and districts that have never seen a yellow taxi. Meanwhile, New York City dwellers and drivers would get a reprieve from shouldering much of the burden because the licensing registration fee increases would apply to everyone across the board in all MTA counties. Those living outside of the city where car ownership rates are higher would be funding the subway system.
In an ideal world, the MTA funding plan would require money collected in New York City to be reinvested in New York City; money collected upstate to be funneled back upstate; and money collected in Westchester and Long Island to go toward transit and infrastructure there. This new plan accomplishes none of those goals and doesn’t seem to have the support it needs to pass the Senate. How utterly disappointing and how utterly typical.