New York’s leaders roundly rejected the Senate Democrat’s idea for the MTA. (Click the image for a much larger and very readable version of this chart.)
In the end, the Senate Democrats came up with an idea yesterday that was exactly as reported. In an effort to close what they viewed as a $1.128 billion budget gap — a number about $700 million off from reality — the Senate Democrats propose no tolls and no service cuts but a four percent fare hike and a payroll tax of $0.25 per $100. The Senators would also request a full audit of the MTA and administrative trimming.
Even its proponents admit that this plan would be hust a stop gap measure. Meanwhile, New York’s leaders came out swinging, and no one liked this idea. It doesn’t provide a long-term solution to the MTA’s financial woes, and unlike the Ravitch plan, the Splan does not fund the MTA’s ambitious capital plan. It is, in the grand tradition of state assistance to the MTA, a token gesture designed to postpone, and not fix, a real problem. While the Four Amigos can claim a victory over tolls, the rest of us are losers.
Early in the day, Mayor Bloomberg was highly critical of this effort. With New York political commentators wondering just how little control Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has over his own party members, Bloomberg slammd Albany. “We need a plan that solves the problem, not something that’s going to get us to next year,” the mayor said.
Bloomberg also took the opportunity to bash the Senate system: “There’s a tradition, sadly, in the Senate which I’ve never agreed with that you do all your party, and the other party doesn’t really get counted. And that’s not democracy. I think we’d all be better off if we had changed some of that, but that’s the tradition up there. So it’s going to have to be the Democratic senators to come together with the Democratic Assembly people and a Democratic governor and solve this problem.”
That system, though, might be changing. Reports from Albany suggest that Gov. David Paterson, upset with a splintered and obstructionist Democratic party, may be willing to court Republicans. The Times reported on this potentially bipartisan development:
Mr. Paterson chided the Democratic majority in the Senate for choosing what he described as a short-term solution that left big holes in future budgets at the authority. His strong stance suggested that the debate over how to prevent sharp fare increases and service cuts could drag late into the budget season…
The governor was asked if there were any way the Senate plan could be adopted and provide a solution for the authority’s problems. He answered bluntly, “No.”
The governor suggested he may seek Republican support to break the impasse, saying he is willing to sit down with leaders from both parties in the Senate to discuss the issue. So far, however, Republicans have refused to back any version of the rescue plan.
On a more practical level, as everyone from Sheldon Silver to Regional Plan Association officials called this plan “Irresponsible,” “Disappointing,” “Stopgap” and “Slapdash”, transit advocates challenged the Senate math. MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger said that the Senators did not “do their homework.” The fare hike with this half-baked plan could be closer to 15-20 percent than the projected four percent.
At this point, this whole thing is one giant mess. The MTA board meets in seven days to assess the agency’s short-term future, and the Senate has offered up no opinion on the Ravitch plan, the best of the long-term plans. Malcolm Smith can’t keep his caucus in line, and both the mayor and governor are ready to engage in open partisan warfare against a splintered caucus while transit in the city struggles to stay afloat.
Maybe it would be best for the MTA to fail. At least then constituents could vote out their Senators in favor of people willing to assess the numbers and take a real chance on a plan to save the city. That’s probably just a dream though.