Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Glimmers of hope?

It's a damn shame that I still haven't gotten to go on any of my rides this year. Things are still just too hectic. My health has yet to settle down, and now on top of it I'm moving and going to trial. Nevertheless, I want to try to keep you, lovely reader, up to date on the ridiculous ongoings of the NY MTA fare hikes / service cuts. After all, the fate of my beloved W train hangs in the balance!

And so, the latest New York Times article on the subject, which indicates that there may indeed be a light of the big fat white man's bureaucratic tunnel.

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Senate Shapes New Rescue Plan for M.T.A.

Published: April 20, 2009

Into the maelstrom of competing proposals to rescue the financially troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Democrats in the State Senate submitted another offering Monday — one that would cut out new tolls but add money for highway and bridge construction.

Earlier attempts to pass a rescue plan for the authority have died within the Senate’s narrow and fractious Democratic majority. A spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Malcolm A. Smith, said on Monday that he was “optimistic” that the new plan could win the 32 votes needed to pass.

But Mr. Smith’s ability to deliver enough votes is crucial, so it was not immediately clear whether the new plan would provide a needed breakthrough or fall apart as another plan from Senate Democrats had done.

Senate Democrats hold a 32-to-30 majority over Republicans, who have not backed any rescue plan for the authority.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement, “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 M.T.A.’s future.” Mr. Silver added that he had not fully reviewed the plan Monday night.

“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,” he said.

Gov. David A. Paterson’s office released a statement saying that it had not yet reviewed the details of the Senate proposal.

The plan seeks to overcome the objections of Senate Democrats to crucial elements of the original rescue proposal, which was crafted by Richard Ravitch, a former authority chairman, to address growing deficits at the agency.

The original plan included a tax on payrolls of 34 cents for each $100 in wages, to be paid by employers in the 12-county region served by the authority.

Some suburban senators criticized the tax as being too burdensome on businesses, school districts and hospitals.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Mr. Smith, said the Senate alternative would retain the Ravitch plan’s tax rate in New York City, but lower it elsewhere, with counties farther from the city paying less than closer ones.

He said he did not know what rates would apply outside the city.

The tax under the Ravitch plan was estimated to take in $1.53 billion in its first full year of receipts.

Mr. Shafran said the Senate tax would take in $1.49 billion in its first full year.

The Senate plan also eliminates the Ravitch proposal for tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges, which several senators from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx said were unfair to residents of their boroughs.

The plan includes other charges on drivers and vehicles in the 12-county region served by the authority, like an additional $25 vehicle registration fee, a 25 percent increase in driver’s license fees and an increase in car rental taxes to 11 percent, from 6 percent. Together these fees would raise about $175 million a year.

Mr. Shafran said the plan would also include a $1 surcharge on taxi trips throughout the 12-county region, which is expected to produce $190 million a year, half of which would go to the transportation authority.

The other half would be used to pay for highway and bridge projects upstate and on Long Island. Mr. Shafran said that the state would use that portion of the taxi fee to finance borrowing for road and bridge projects. He said the fee would allow the state to borrow $1.2 billion. That would cover only a fraction of the state’s roadway construction needs.

Like the Ravitch plan, the Senate proposal would include an increase of about 8 percent for bus and train fares and existing tolls this year. That increase would come instead of an increase of 20 to 30 percent that the authority says it must impose without a rescue package.

Both plans would also avert deep service cuts.******