Monday, March 2, 2009

NY Dems Squabble Over Bridge Tolls to Save MTA Fares

Leave it to New York State politicians to resort to posturing and obstruction when serious matters need to be resolved; in this case the need to mitigate a proposed 23 percent fare hike for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's various operating agencies.

Daily News political blogger Elizabeth Thompson reports that New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson steadfastly opposes putting tolls on the free bridges across the East and Harlem Rivers to raise money for the MTA to reduce the magnitude of proposed fare hikes. Joining his in opposition to the plan were state Assemblymen Adriano Espaillat, Rory Lancman, Jose Peralta and 17 other Democratic state legislators.

That puts them at odds with incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. David Paterson and Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, who proposed pegging the tolls to the subway fare, which is currently $2. With the exception of Bloomberg, an independent, all of the story's characters are Democrats.

Mr. Silver says he has enough votes in the State Assembly to pass the proposal, but it's a different situation in the State Senate, where the Democrats have a razor-thin majority. Six Democratic Senators oppose the measure, and Silver says he won't act without a clear sense of where the Senate stands.

A new snag is MTA's willingness to accept a $2 toll on the bridges rather than the $5 originally proposed in Richard Ravitch's bailout plan. Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith wants an audit of the agency before the Senate votes.

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