Thursday, March 19, 2009

Senate MTA Rescue Plan Ripped

Commuters Face 23% Fare Hike; MTA Sets March 25 Deadline

By Conor Greene

A plan by Senate Democrats to rescue the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that would have reduced the looming fare hike and prevented tolls on East and Harlem river bridges was dismissed by Governor David Paterson as a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

The MTA’s 2009 operating budget includes a $1.2 billion deficit, and the agency has said it will raise bus and train fares by 23% in the coming months unless the state bails it out. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said Tuesday that his plan could maintain current levels of service while raising fares by 4% through implementation of a payroll tax.

“Particularly during these times of severe economic distress, it was absolutely essential that we protect working families’ access to an affordable and reliable means of mass transit with an MTA recovery plan that minimizes fare hikes and prevents the loss of services and jobs,” said Smith.

Facing the growing budget deficit, the MTA initially proposed extensive service cuts and fare increases of up to 23%. Last year, Gov. Paterson appointed former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch to make recommendations regarding the way in which MTA is funded. That group recommended a payroll tax of 33 cents per $100 of payroll within the 12-county region the MTA serves, an 8% fare increase and tolls on the East and Harlem river bridges.

Under the Senate Democrat’s plan, the payroll tax would be reduced to 25 cents per $100 of payroll (expected to generate $1.16 billion) and an increase of 4% for MTA, Long Island Railroad and Metro-North riders (expected to generate $117 million). Under the senate’s plan, all potential service cuts will be restored and no fares would be placed on bridges.

During a press conference in Albany to announce the rescue plan, Smith said it is clear that the MTA currently has separate shortterm and long-term problems to address. “What they have done is basically linked the short-term and long-term problems together, which we believe is not a sound practice,” he said, adding that the short-term problem is in regard to the authority’s operational budget, which will run out of money by June 30. The capital budget, which Smith said is the longterm problem, is financed through 2010.

“The last thing we wanted to was write a blank check to the MTA when our state could least afford it. 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,” said Smith. “We don’t want to have an AIG situation with the MTA.”

However, it was the Democrat’s focus on just the short-term operational shortfall that concerned Gov. Paterson, who has backed the Ravitch Commission’s recommendation. “The solution must be taken now,” he told reporters after Smith’s plan was announced. “Unfortunately there seems to be a belief that these types of issues can be deferred into some sort of future activity. This is what’s gotten Albany in trouble time and time again.”

In addition, Dale Hemmerdinger, MTA chairman, claimed that the Senate plan will still leave the authority $1 billion short. He said that under the Senate plan, fares would have to be raised by 17 percent, not 4 percent. MTA officials have said they are ready to vote next Wednesday to move forward with planned service cuts and a 23% fare hike if state leaders can’t come to an agreement on a rescue plan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how one year the MTA can have a massive surplus, and then the next be up to its ears in debt...

There needs to be a serious investigation into the book keeping at the MTA, as well as the frivolous spending that occurs on a daily basis... Why does the MTA have to supply company cars for their workers? I'm not even talking about the exec's either...

What about the hundreds of workers busted by a local new channel just wasting time hanging out where no one could see them?

How about having busses idling all day and night wasting fuel?

The MTA wants to suck money from everyone's pockets but their own. I see no reason some exec up in the office of a local depot should be making $300,000+ a year without question, and there still are drivers and other workers within the MTA that don't even have a contract!

What justifies these execs making so much for sitting in an office pushing paperwork when the people doing the real work are paid on such a lower scale, and can lose their jobs at any second...

It's beyond ridiculous as to how the MTA is allowed to operate like this year after year, without anyone stepping in to say enough is enough. It's always the same thing over and over with the MTA and their "doomsday budget". How about the fat pigs at the top take a pay cut and give up their luxury company cars and perks, I wonder how much that would save the MTA...

Lets not forget the fiasco about the misspelled stop, and how a WHOLE WALL was boarded up and plywood fences erected around, just to change out a few letter tiles??? WHY??? Or that $200,000 mistake at making a platform 1 inch to short? REALLY??? are the materials made of PLATINUM??? Several man hours of skilled welding and some steel plate would have fixed that problem rather quick, and at no where near what the cost was according to the MTA...

Fare hikes aren't the answer, pay cuts for the exec's are one place to start, and get rid of redundant executive positions, as well as the outside contracted companies that do the work that MTA employees are SUPPOSED to do, like general ground maintenance. I know one fellow in a local depot that is one of the foremen on the maintenance crew, and his job has been cut down to nothing by the MTA outsourcing to contractors to do the same work, but for MORE!!! This guy was hired by the MTA years ago to do what these outside contractors now do, What is the point of hiring outside sources when the in house sources you already have can do the job???

The MTA needs to have the local gov. Maybe even the Fed. gov. step in and take over. The monopoly they have become needs to be broken up. allowing them to buy up all the private lines was the start of their corrupt practices, and it just won't stop until someone does something about it.

Now they want to take money from people like myself who don't use their system, and they feel thats OK. I drive myself everywhere I need to go, there is no way I will ever accept being forced to pay extra fees to register/insure/operate MY OWN VEHICLE, or pay extra tolls to access my own neighborhood daily, just to foot the corrupt bills of the MTA... I'll start blowing through tolls with bogus plates if that be the case... ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!