Toward the end of the day on Monday, I reported on stirrings of yet another Senate Democratic funding plan for the MTA. When an aide to Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith introduced the plan — yet to be submitted as a bill — to the press today, the early word wasn’t too far off.
Before, we analyze, let’s run down the plan. Elizabeth Benjamin has the details, and I’m borrowing some of this from her.
- Payroll Tax: 34 cents per $100 in the 12-county MTA region. However, the new proposal includes a graduated tax. The counties further away from the City will pay less. Revenue: $1.49 billion
- Taxi Surcharge: $1 taxi drop-off fee. Revenue: $190 million (half for upstate debt service payments)
- Motor Vehicle Registration Fee: $25. Revenue: $130 million
- Auto Rental Surcharge: An increase from six to 11 percent. Revenue: $35 million
- Licensing Fees: 25 percent increase. Revenue: $10.5 million
- MTA Accountability: Required outside audit; merger of the CEO and chairman positions; two members, one each appointed by the Senate and Assembly; online publishing of the budget, capital plan and executive perks.
- Fare Increase: 8 percent.
My first question is an obvious — and admittedly snarky — one: With the exception of the perks, the MTA budget and capital planning documents are already posted online. Has anyone in the Senate ever bothered to visit the MTA website? Anyway, that’s the plan.
The immediate question surrounding this proposal concerns the support of the rest of the Senate. Does the plan have the support of at least 32 members of the Senate? Does the Gang of Four support it? Will any state G.O.P. representatives voice their support of it? Jimmy Vielkind posed these questions and received no answers.
“We did not take a count,” Austin Shafran, a Senate spokesman, said. “What we felt we had to do was to do something that addressed the needs of the M.T.A. We’re confident that we’ll have 32 votes.”
Of course, the Senators were saying the same thing a few weeks ago when Smith was trying to cajole his party into supporting the tax-and-toll plan. We all know how that ended up.
On the Assembly side of the debate, Speaker Sheldon Silver all but guaranteed his chamber’s support for any MTA funding plan that gets through the Senate. “I am willing to support any plan that provides a stable, long term funding stream for mass transit and apportions the burden equitably among everyone who has a stake in the MTA’s future,” Silver said in a statement late Monday. “I have not had an opportunity to fully review the Senate’s plan, but if it can accomplish both of those objectives and command the support of the majority of Senators then it is an alternative we’re prepared to take very seriously.”
Procedurally, the bill will probably be introduced today and will require a three-day “aging” period. A vote could come at the end of this week, but in all likelihood, we won’t know the future of the MTA until next week.
For the MTA, his bill would shelve most, if not all, of the planned service cuts. We should still be stuck with a fare hike, and the bridges — the same bridges that cost me a Metrocard swipe each day to cross — would remain free. We would be hit with more driver’s licensing fees even if we don’t drive, and the taxi drivers are going to raise hell about this plan. But that’s that. Now let’s see the Senate actually pass it.