Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Senate Dems Finally Agree On Something For The M.T.A.

With less than four weeks before the M.T.A. introduces the doomsday fares and service cuts, the Senate Democrats have finally agreed on something, even if it doesn't address the systemic problems embedded within the transit authority. Last night Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was able to announce his "victory" within his caucus.

From The Daily Politics:

The tolls are still out. The 34-cent/$100 payroll tax, graduated so Dutchess, Putnam and Orange counties pay less (25 cents/$100), is in. The $1 taxi drop-off fee is back to 50 cents, with 25 percent of the revenue generated going to pay for debt service on MTA capital projects through 2011, but not for upstate and Long Island roads and bridges.

One sticking point: The Senate Democrats want school districts in the 12-county MTA service area to be "held harmless" from the payroll tax, and it's unclear whether that means relief would come on the front end (by not charging the districts at all) or the back (by reimbursing them after the fact).

They also want an assurance that districts will be held harlmess in perpetuity - regardless of how the state's economic circumstances change.

Protecting the schools sounds good, preventing a drastic fare hike at the end of the month is definitely good but looking ahead, this short-range plan is nothing but a cheap political fix. And of course the Majority Leader takes the first "hit" of victory by chiding his fellow Democrats for not going along with his plan back in March:
"Basically, I won't say all of you, but a number of people, basically indicated they thought that was the wrong thing to do," Smith said. "In recent stories I think there's been some discussion about some merit to that."

"...Obviously, if you had adopted my plan back in March, we wouldn't be here," the majority leader said later. We tried to tell everybody back then, but we all...were told we were wrong. Things have come full circle."

Nothing has come full circle Mr. Smith. All you have is this moment and if anything, is a pyrrhic victory for the M.T.A. This deal, and the deal back in March was done for the sake of political expediency, not for the long-term health of New York's mass transit system. This is still the wrong thing to do, but sadly, it seems this is the best you can do.