Home MTA EconomicsDoomsday Budget Albany preparing to rescue MTA, for now

Albany preparing to rescue MTA, for now

by Benjamin Kabak

For months, the New York State legislature has resisted efforts to save the MTA, and last week, the MTA Board approved a package of fare hikes and service cuts designed to eliminate a budget gap in excess of $1.2 billion.

But finally, with New Yorkers’ collective backs against the proverbial wall, the State Senate is on the verge of passing something that will save the MTA. According to reports from the weekend, a political stalemate may be on the verge of breaking as the Senate will soon unveil a rescue plan insiders believe to be adequate to stave off fare hikes and service cuts. Whether this plan will solve the MTA’s financial problems or simply postpone the need for a permanent solution to a future date remains to be seen.

No matter what happens, the legislature will have to act fast to ensure passage and implementation before the MTA is set to enact its own cost-saving measures in May. Glenn Blain and Pete Donohue had the details:

State legislative leaders said Friday they expect to soon have a plan sparing riders from jarring fare hikes and punishing service cuts. Revenue-raising measures under discussion don’t include tolling East and Harlem river bridges but Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) said all options remain on the table.

Either way, a final package wouldn’t let drivers off the hook completely, sources said. If not tolls, motorists would have to help plug the MTA’s massive budget gaps through higher vehicle registration fees or some other driving-related charge, sources said. The rest of the plan is expected to include two other key recommendations from a panel headed by…Ravitch: modest fare hikes and a payroll tax on businesses in the MTA region, sources said.

After they emerged from a closed-door meeting with Gov. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Smith said they expect to finish hashing out the details of the doomsday-derailing plan early in the week. “Based on the conversations we’ve had of late, I think it won’t be in the budget bill but I think we’ll be passing it around the same time,” Smith said.

As the weekend ticked on, nothing else leaked out, but Senators expressed their belief that a deal could be reached early this week. The quotes NY1 dragged up from the Senators are rather priceless too. “The Democratic conference was always committed to do something responsible to stop the fare hikes, to improve service, to not develop tolls which exacerbate the problems of the working class in this city,” Bronx Senator Pedro Espada Jr., said.

Said Ruben Diaz, Sr.,¬†one Senator who probably doesn’t ride the subways, “My conscience is telling me that we in the Senate are having the best package for everyone that rides the subway.”

I will wait to reserve judgment on the adequacy or effectiveness of this plan until the details are released. It sounds as though Comptroller William C. Thompson’s driver license fee plan may be back on the table.

As is always the case from Albany, the Senate will now end up claiming the fare hike/service cuts high ground. They can craft a media image as rescuers of the MTA and earn undeserved political points for a financial crisis of their own doing.

Obviously, this story is far from over, but I am optimistic that the MTA’s Doomsday budget will be avoided. For now.

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7 comments

Jason March 30, 2009 - 9:29 am

i have to wonder that with the successful use of the internet for the obama campaign and now it being incorporated into almost all forms of public discourse, that those in the Albany legislature truly got to hear from everyday new yorker’s who messaged, blogged, and called these people to tell them what we think.

I hope this is a sign of future things to come. Just think, when our politicians/”leaders” make a decision we don’t approve of, we all rally behind the internet and blast them with a unified voice of disgust until they are forced to change their tune.

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orulz March 30, 2009 - 10:50 am

Politically, it’s a lot harder to start charging for something that was once free (bridges) than it is to raise a fee that already exists (registration fees)

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Mr. Eric March 30, 2009 - 10:58 am

If this “bailout” is anything other than a PERMANENT revenue stream to the MTA I wouldn’t accept it. Partial or temporary solutions are not needed anymore. We have been hearing the MTA crying poverty every year now for years even when they were posting a surplus. Enough already.

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nathan_h March 30, 2009 - 11:14 am

Eventually NYC drivers without second homes or family in the south to maintain fraudulent registrations are going to get a clue and support tolling as the only way to divide the cost of maintaining roads and bridges among those who use them most often. If the legislature in fact raises registration fees (and more irrelevantly, the driver’s license), they’re doing a big favor to people that game the system, many of whom do not even vote in NYS. This is a bad, paperwork heavy, fragile, and basically ignorant way to have motorists help fund the system. I am prepared to hold out for a plan that actually addresses the failure and injustice of our transportation financing; but then, I’m not dependent on the subway to get to work.

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Montgomery joins Fare Hike Four :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog March 30, 2009 - 5:14 pm

[…] Albany may be nearing an MTA rescue plan, transit advocates shouldn’t lower their guards yet. The so-called Fare Hike Four remain a […]

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John March 30, 2009 - 9:43 pm

Would residential parking permits in the five boroughs help plug the MTA’s budget?

An annual registration fee would provide revenue, but would it be enough if it were part of the Ravitch or Silver Plan in place of tolls?

Certainly, it would help put a stop to fraudulent out of state registrations, especially if one could only be acquired by having your car registered to an address in the city or if you had a valid student ID.

One would think that restricting or limiting the amount of time non-residents could park would make it easier for people to park their cars.

Additionally, the city would be able to make money through extra ticketing and the state would get more money from increased registrations and licensing fees.

You’d also potentially have people think twice about keeping a car in the city which would lead to an increase in ridership which would also fund the system.

Would something like this even be workable?

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Rhetoric, but no MTA deal, from Albany :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog March 31, 2009 - 1:15 am

[…] the New York State budget stews, the MTA has landed firmly on the backburner, and while Albany will soon put forth an MTA rescue plan, right now, all we’re getting in the news is […]

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