Tuesday, March 17, 2009

State Senate Compromises The MTA

Politics is all about compromises right? Well, "politics" is certainly underway in the State Senate, as Malcolm Smith's fractured caucus (with zero help from the other side of the aisle) has decided to go ahead with a Ravitch-lite plan that helps some of the MTA's ailments but certainly not all. If the Senate gets its' way, this bill would do nothing but put a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

From The NY Times:

The Senate proposal, which was presented privately to Democratic Senators on Monday afternoon, includes a 4 percent fare increase, half of what Mr. Ravitch had proposed. It would also impose a tax of 25 cents on every $100 of payroll on employers within the 12 counties served by the authority. That is significantly less than the 34 cents that Mr. Ravitch had proposed.

“The immediate impact would be, all service cuts are restored, fare increases would be cut in half, and there would be no tolls,” said one of the two people briefed on the plan.

Democratic staff members reviewed some of the authority’s finances in recent days and concluded that a scaled-back plan would suffice in the short term. But the Senate proposal would require the transportation authority to submit to a deeper forensic auditing, a step lawmakers from both parties have demanded as a condition of laying out more taxpayer money for the authority, long dogged by waste and corruption.
Well I certainly applaud the desire for transparency, though the demand comes from an institution that is deeply flawed in that department as well. If the Senate really wanted transparency out of the MTA, they should work hand in hand with the Authority so that they get the facts and figures they need. If the Senate wants transparency, then demand it here and now. Otherwise, this sounds more like a lame excuse more than anything.

What this short-term plan will do, according to MTA head Elliot Sander, is increase the debt load of the Authority and lead to more future problems. Also, as Mr. Ravitch says:

Mr. Ravitch has insisted that any short-term or stopgap solution would only exacerbate the authority’s fiscal woes and create a bigger budget hole next year. In an interview last week, Mr. Ravitch said that the defeat of his plan would be “disastrous to the economy and the people of the M.T.A. region.” Mr. Ravitch declined to comment Monday night on the Senate’s counterproposal, saying he did not know the details.
This is no time for stopgaps, if anything, we need government to help secure our mass transit future now instead of making the problem worse. If only Smith and the several other Dems had the courage to be leaders and do the best for all New Yorkers that use the MTA instead of what they think will get them re-elected in their districts next year. Then again, that would be expecting too much of Smith, Kruger and the rest of the stalwarts up in Albany.