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State Senate unveils MTA plan

Three plans, but no end in sight.

That’s where the situation currently stands with the Governor, State Assembly and now the State Senate, which was the latest government body to offer their own plan to plug the MTA’s $1.2 billion operating budget gap.

The Senate Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, announced their plan to bail out the agency on Tuesday, March 17. The plan calls for no tolls on East and Harlem River Bridges, a new payroll tax of 25 cents per $100 (the Ravitch Commission recommended 33 cents) and a 4 percent fare increase on buses and trains (the Ravitch Commission recommended 8 percent).

“The last thing we wanted to do was write a blank check to the MTA when our state could least afford it,” Smith said. “Through a deliberative process and the insistence on greater measures of transparency, our conference was able to determine the best course of action to address the MTA operating budget shortfall and assure New Yorkers that their money would be spent wisely.”

Smith’s announcement comes on the heels of the MTA’s impending March 25 deadline where the agency said if it does not receive state assistance, it would have to implement a plan for a 23 percent fare hike on buses and trains as well as service cuts to many lines in Queens and throughout the city.

Almost immediately, after details of the Senate’s plans began to come out, many leaders seemed skeptical saying that it is only a temporary solution for this year and does not address any of the capital issues the MTA has.

“Next year will be even more difficult to get something through the Legislature, because it will be an election year for the State Senate and the State Assembly and for the Governor,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters during the St. Patrick’s Day parade. “So I think this is the year to solve this problem, and incidentally, we have to solve the capital problem. The capital problem comes first. If you don’t solve your capital problem, you don’t know how to project what the operating expenses are going to be.”

The Senate Democrats’ plan came almost two weeks after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed instituting $2 tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges – a scaled back version of the $5 Ravitch Commission recommendation. Governor David Paterson is continuing to lobby for the State Legislature to adopt the Ravitch Commission plan.

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