The Ball Is In Malcom’s Court

Over the last few months, most of the talk on this blog has been about the financial crisis the MTA is currently dealing with. With the deadline fast approaching on a vote for whether or not they will have to implement the “doomsday scenario“, the MTA has been spending time trying to convince state leaders to go forward with proposals from the Ravitch Commission.

As one would expect, some officials have expressed concern or downright refusal to support such proposals as implementing a new corporate tax or tolling the East & Harlem River bridges. One of those said officials is none other than Democratic Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Over the last 5 days, two editorials have appeared in the New York Daily News on how the ball is clearly in his court on whether or not to help bailout the MTA. Lets take a look at both starting with the first one which appeared in Wednesday’s print edition:

Here it comes: The Malcolm Smith Memorial Subway and Bus Fare Hike.

And here it comes: The Carl Kruger Memorial Decimation of Transit Service.

And here it comes: The Dean Skelos Memorial LIRR and Metro-North Fare Hike.

Flat broke, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is on the verge of imposing a 23% fare hike and drastic service cuts. Only the Legislature has the power to avert this disaster.

Lawmakers have been given a plan to raise the $2.4 billion a year the MTA needs to blunt the hikes and keep mass transit in good working order. It entails subjecting employers to a modest payroll tax and putting tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has shown the fortitude to back tolls in line with the $2 bus and subway fare. But in the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Smith of Queens, Democratic Finance Committee Chairman Kruger of Brooklyn and Minority Leader Skelos of Long Island are among the many legislators balking.

They seem to think they can do nothing – and let the MTA take the heat for raising fares through the roof, shutting the W and Z trains and canceling express buses.

Smith, Kruger, Skelos and all the other anti-toll lawmakers will bear responsibility for hammering millions of daily riders because they feared the wrath of a comparative handful of bridge motorists. Among the guilty will also be Sens. Ruben Diaz and Pedro Espada of the Bronx.

All have railed against tolls and/or taxes or, like Smith, postured this way or that – without offering any credible alternative. Ideas that have been floated are unworkable or lunacy.

Click here for the complete editorial.

Now lets take a look at the editorial which appeared in today’s print edition:

The state Senate’s Democrats are set to gather behind closed doors today for a meeting critical to the millions of New Yorkers who ride the subways, buses and commuter rail lines every day.

Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, of Queens, will be conferencing with his members about supporting a rescue plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Hanging in the balance is whether straphangers are walloped with a 23% fare hike and neighborhoods across the city lose transit services.

Smith and his team have two choices: jack up the fare and eliminate subway lines or vote for a tax on payrolls along with tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges.

The decision rests on the shoulders of Smith and his new Democratic majority. It’s make or break, as Gov. Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have gotten behind the tax and tolls.

So, what will it be, Malcolm?

Will your team impose a back-breaking fare hike and service reductions that damage the quality of life?

Or will you require the far smaller number of drivers who use the untolled bridges to pay their share in order to put the MTA on solid footing?

It’s your call, Malcolm. And the future of your leadership, not to mention the future of New York City, is riding on your answer.

Click here for the complete editorial.

This is a huge deal for Malcolm Smith as his reign as Senate Majority Leader has been filled with less than stellar results. If he truly spearheads the implementation of the “doomsday scenario“, he could kiss re-election goodbye when that time comes. If he was smart, he would not only do what his best for his political future but for the millions who would be impacted by doomsday. While the Ravitch Commission proposals were a letdown, they are better than the alternatives at the moment.

While they won’t cure all the financial woes of the MTA, it is a start to better ideas & policies in the future. If not, a quality transit system will not be in the future for millions of tri-state area residents. Malcolm, you know what needs to be done. Will you hit the winning shot or whimper off the court a loser. The ball is in your court, lets see what you got.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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