Senate Proposes Another Dud

Time is running out for the State Senate to come up with a MTA financial package that would starve off the MTA’s “doomsday scenario“. Both sides of the aisle have spent the majority of the time playing the blame game or coming up with inadequate solutions. Once again, the latter seems to be playing itself out with the latest “proposal” from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Jimmy Vielkind of Politicker NY has more in this report:

It’s the State Senate’s plan to fix the M.T.A.’s finances, take two.

Here’s what it includes: a $1 surcharge on taxi rides in the 12 counties served by the M.T.A., raising $190 million; a sliding payroll tax on all businesses within that region, raising $1.49 billion; a $25 fee on motor vehicle registration, raising $130 million; a 25 percent increase on the fee to obtain a drivers license, raising $10.5 million; an eight percent increase on fares; and an increase in tax on rental cars, raising $35 million.

No legislators attended the announcement.

A total of $1.76 billion will flow to the M.T.A.; an additional $95 million will be used as the basis for issuing bonds toward $1.2 billion of road and bridge projects on Long Island and upstate.

Click here for the complete report.

Shortly thereafter, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wondered if the proposal had enough votes to pass. Jimmy Vielkind of Politicker NY once again was on top of it with this report:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he will examine the latest proposal to provide funding for the M.T.A. from Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.

“We’re looking at it,” Silver said to reporters outside of his office. “Most important, do they have the votes? And exactly what the plan is–you can go on forever about different details of it.”

By codifying a plan and advancing it, Smith may deflect further criticism of his conference’s seeming inability to agree on a workable alternative to plans from David Paterson and Silver. If the bill does pass, it becomes the Senate’s stated negotiating position while a final plan is worked out with the Assembly and governor.

Click here for the complete report.

I would like to take this moment to commend Ben Fried of Streetsblog who had a very strong piece on why this plan fails to address the actual concerns of the current crisis:

So, just in time for Earth Day, the State Senate has proposed an MTA rescue plan that’s bad for both business and the environment.

Not only will the piecemeal funding approach likely have the MTA begging again within months, but these particular funding streams will make the city’s traffic woes even worse, all while forcing New York City businesses and the city’s car-free majority to shoulder much of the burden. It’s a poor substitute for the Ravitch plan or congestion pricing. Here’s why:

1. Raising tolls on MTA crossings while keeping East and Harlem River bridges free gives car commuters and truckers even more incentive to detour across city streets to the free crossings. Neighborhoods like Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, Williamsburg and the Lower East Side that are already pulverized by traffic will see things get worse.

2. Raising fees on car ownership through higher registration and licensing fees does nothing to discourage car use, and may actually encourage people to drive more in order to get more bang for their buck. Using tolls or congestion fees to price driving would have the opposite effect.

3. Raising the cost of car sharing, rentals and taxis makes it tougher to live without a car. And, like higher ownership fees, increasing these one-time charges encourages renters to maximize their driving. Congestion pricing or tolls are far superior.

4. Unlike private motorists taxi drivers faced with higher fees will increase their driving. Why? Since passengers will choose to ride less, given the higher fare, cabbies will have to drive more to recoup the flat fee they pay to operate a taxi.

5. Using cab fees to pay for highway and bridge projects outside of the city transfers wealth from the dense, environmentally sustainable city to the car-dependent suburbs. If anything, taxes on cabs should fund the city bridges and streets used by those cabs.

Over the last few months, I have echoed my firm belief that if Albany is going to come up with half-baked solutions, it would be better to not have one at all. The idea of temporary fixes starving off the MTA’s “doomsday scenario” is quite concerning. We as a region can’t afford to come back to deal with the same issues every few months. The time has clearly come for long term solutions to funding the MTA as anything less will not get the job done.

Band-aid solutions might get praise from constituents, it will only be short term as the mathematical facts of the situation will rear its ugly head & win out in the end. No amount of good press will cover up the potential collapse of our transit infrastructure & possible bankruptcy of the MTA itself. While some out there long for the MTA to not run things, the fact is they are all we have right now & we as a region can’t afford to have them go under.

The battle between the New York City region & Upstate New York has reached a breaking point. In the end, every transit advocate knows this is a battle that our region can’t afford to lose as the repercussions from doing so would be the true doomsday.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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[…] ago, I wrote about the State Senate’s latest proposed MTA funding package which I felt was a complete dud. In that entry, I had also linked to another piece from Politicker NY which focused on Assembly […]

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