Today’s Headlines

  • Uncertain Prospects For Pricing (Post, NYT, NY1)
  • Silver Plays It Close to Vest (Daily Politics)
  • Assembly Minority Leader Wants to Tie Pricing to Budget (Daily Politics)
  • Some Doubt Corzine’s Sincerity in Pricing Flap (NYT)
  • The Case for Belt (Parkway) Tightening (Cap’n Transit)
  • LA May Levy Fees on Drivers to Fund Transit (LAT, via Planetizen)
  • The Hypocrisy of Libertarians Who Love Highways (Governing)
  • Lawsuit Could Force EPA to Regulate Auto Emissions (NYT)
  • Car Sales Down Big (NPR)
  • Larry Littlefield

    I’d like to do a thought experiment. Imagine Sheldon Silver wants to do the right thing.

    By the right thing I mean tell narrow, organized, privileged interests they have taken too much and must make a more equitable contribution to our common future. In other words, the opposite of what he, Bruno, Pataki, then Spitzer, and their minions and supporters have done for 20 years.

    What would he do?

    He has been quoted as saying that they could pass congestion pricing and put that 1% tax on millionaires, give all the money to the MTA, and it still wouldn’t be enough. And, thanks to the debts and pensions from the past, he’s right.

    And there are similar debts and pensions and unmet needs and already spent revenues elsewhere. Along with vested interests and sinecures that are apparently untouchable. And tax revenues are going to collapse for two years, and not recover until 2011 — guaranteed.

    Remember, taxes on bonuses and profits earned in one year are routinely deferred to the next — the bonuses are paid in January, and bonuses for 2007 were down only modestly from the year before. Now there will be little in the way of bonuses, and losses instead of profits, until 2010. Which is why revenues, if we are lucky, will suddenly rise from the depths in 2011.

    The fiscal crisis is not close to even starting here.

    One view is that Silver and his crowd want to pretend to do something to prevent a collapse, while sucking out as much as possible and skipping town. Another view is that Silver knows that is certainly true of all the other actors in the drama too.

    So maybe what he wants in exchange for CP is higher taxes.

    Or maybe what he wants in exchange for CP is richer pensions, more debts, and more tax breaks for certain interests, along with higher taxes for everyone else.

  • Hizzoner

    New York State is a state so dysfunctional and corrupt that the Republicans are more environmentally friendly than the Democrats.

    When they put little “D”s next to their names in the NYS Assembly, why do they do it? What does it mean to these Assemblymen? They’re running New York State into the ground.

  • Edgar

    Hey, I’d just like to point out that the NYT article mentions that Daniel J. O’Donnell, the Assemblyman for the Upper West Side (!) is AGAINST congestion pricing. Whose pocket is he in? Certainly not his constituents’, it seems.

    I wrote him a letter:

    Dear Assemblyman O’Donnell,

    The Upper West Side, where the vast majority of residents use mass transit to commute to work, has for decades been used as a doormat by commuters from Westchester and other points north of New York City. Yet they have not paid their fair share to keep up these roads, and have benefited from free access to a very limited resource, space on Manhattan’s public roads. At the same time, Upper West Siders bear the burden of mass transit fares for access to another, much less destructive public service: the subways and buses.

    Now that a plan has been introduced to help improve mass transit, and at the same time make car commuters pay their share for the services they use (just like subway commuters pay subway fares), I have read in the New York Times that you are against this plan.

    As a Democrat, I am shocked by your anti-environmental stance on this issue.

    Also, you are a representative of a community that suffers from unbridled automobile traffic, while the vast majority of your constituents pay subway fares that amount to a regressive tax on those who must take mass transit, making your position all the more puzzling.

    Would you care to explain your views on this matter to me and your other constituents, and come out more publicly to the people of the Upper West Side with your position?

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    Sincerely,

  • Hilary

    Cap’n Transit – You’re the first voice of reason I’ve heard on the subject of this Shore parkway project – no doubt because it’s been kept under wraps for the years in the making (I happened to hear about it at a Historic Roads Conference in Boston. Its consultants told of their strict instructions to keep it out of the public eye.) The replacement of the historic parkway bridges is ostensibly to allow “emergency vehicles,” but agency people admit it is a backdoor to opening the parkway to trucks. The first people you need to persuade of the folly of this idea (and the wisdom of yours, to restore it to true waterfront PARKway)are those at Transportation Alternatives, who have the misguided idea that expanding truck capacity is the way to solve truck congestion, and at the expense of parks and greenways no less.

  • rhubarbpie

    Good letter to O’Donnell, Edgar. I had contacted his office already, in part because I am just so amazed that he would take this position. I’m surprised by it and hope he will change it.

    He represents what has got to be one of the most environmentally active constituencies in the country…just to further that point, I just got an e-mail from an acquaintance in the neighborhood urging me (and 20 others on the list) to call his office in support of congestion pricing. This guy will be surprised by the pressure, and I bet will change his view if we work on him enough.

  • Dave H.

    Typo – extra cap on “PLanetizen”

  • rhubarbpie

    Concerning Silver, I’ve always been surprised by the view that he’s the heavy in this battle. The speaker knows that the MTA needs the dough. He also has got a lot of opposition in his house to congestion pricing, in part due to the mayor’s tremendously inartful (and I’m being very polite here) handling of the initiative in Albany).

    While the millionaire tax is off the table for now, I’d be very interested in seeing if the mayor could change his tune on this (leading along the governor and his friends in the senate) to engage in the kind of give-and-take that will make it easier to pass congestion pricing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Concerning Silver, I’ve always been surprised by the view that he’s the heavy in this battle.)

    That’s because on everything that matters, the vote in Albany is 212 to 0, with most people living here today and everyone living here in the future represented by the zero. So in other words, the assumption is his is the only vote that matters.

    On option he has is to release CP for an open debate and an open vote. But that is anathema in Albany.

  • rhubarbpie

    Congestion pricing will lose if there’s an “open” debate.

    Beyond that, I’ve said this many times: While the speaker is obviously largely in control of his delegation, his positions are in fact deeply affected by the Democratic members in the Assembly, and to pretend otherwise neglects history, the way politics works, and human nature.

  • The first people you need to persuade of the folly of this idea (and the wisdom of yours, to restore it to true waterfront PARKway)are those at Transportation Alternatives, who have the misguided idea that expanding truck capacity is the way to solve truck congestion, and at the expense of parks and greenways no less.

    Interesting. Can someone from Transportation Alternatives confirm or deny that this is a general principle you subscribe to?

    Regardless of whether they have that principle, T.A. has long supported tearing down the Sheridan Expressway, and whatever value that highway has is mostly as a truck route. I would expect them to support tearing down the Belt Parkway or returning it to parkway standards.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Congestion pricing will lose if there’s an “open” debate.)

    So be it. But when the fare goes up and transit service starts to deteriorate, those who voted no would be blamed.

    That is why everything is 212 to 0, and most things are never voted on at all.

    What the Democratic members in the Assembly will have to get their heads around is that as a result of all the favors, deals and debts in all those budgets they have voted yes on and not read, they will be voting to raise taxes, raise fees, and cut services for years to come. The alternative is bankruptcy, and they may come.

  • Josh

    Edgar, I’d like to send a letter similar to yours to Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. (I had meant to write to him earlier, but have not had the opportunity for various reasons not worth going into here.) Would you mind if I borrowed some of your text?

  • Edgar

    Of course not, Josh!

  • Geck

    I do remember reading, and being surprised to learn, that TA favors allowing trucks on Parkways, so as to reduce truck traffic on neighborhood streets. I say close the parkways to SUVs and Pickup trucks. We need to discourage ownership and use of those vehicles.

  • Spud Spudly

    What happened to you LL, did they take away your pension?

    Rhubarbpie has a very, very good point: You guys should be thrilled that in this particular situation Shelly holds all this singular and concentrated power, because if it wasn’t that way CP would have ZERO chance in the Assembly. The only reason it’s even breathing now is because Shelly’s still officially on the fence. So maybe, just maybe, evil old Shelly is saving you from the elected dolts he presides over.

    BTW, where the heck is the Post story about Christine Quinn’s slushy funds, illegally un-allocated and held in the name of non-existant organizations? Now we know where much of that scrumptious pork came from to feed the council trolls who jumped the fence last week.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (What happened to you LL, did they take away your pension?)

    Nope, the ongoing cycle of pension enhancements for those cashing in and moving out, offset by lower pay and benefits for new hires, in government (and in some other unionized industries) drives me crazy. Just part of the ongoing generational war.

    The most recent example was the deal allowing NYC teachers to retire at 55 instead of 62, with current teachers who qualify allowed to walk out the door immediately without contributing an extra dime, but future teachers forced to pay far more into the pension ever after to partially offset the cost. That and budget cuts in the schools.

    Didn’t hear about it? It passed in January. They don’t issue press releases for these things.

  • Spud Spudly

    Yeah, I heard about it. My best friend is an elementary school teacher in Queens. He likes the pension deal but lately he’s mostly pissed off that the latest contract requires him to work a few extra minutes a day because it interferes with the schedule of the second job he has to work to make ends meet.

    Don’t you know, “Old Man Wanna Be Rich, Rich Man Wanna Be King,” and all that.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Lately he’s mostly pissed off that the latest contract requires him to work a few extra minutes a day because it interferes with the schedule of the second job he has to work to make ends meet.”

    Well, paying people more to not work, and less to work, is hardly a way to get quality public services. And upping the deal for those leaving and paying less to those coming isn’t a way to get quality services in the future.

    At least he isn’t being paid $25K, like the newly-hired police. And, if he has enough years in to be in favor of the pension deal, he almost certainly is paid more than I am, and I am paid more than the majority of people in the city (though less than the majority of those driving to the CBD).

  • Josh

    Assuming you’re quoting the Boss, the line is “poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king”.

  • Spud Spudly

    The cop deal is of course the poster child for what you’re saying. It’s a friggin’ disgrace and is already eroding the NYPD and other city forces from the bottom up. One hundred bucks a shift basically to risk your life every day.

    But of course the guys who stick it out can retire in 20 with 1/2, as they say, mostly tax-free.

  • Spud Spudly

    DAMMIT! It’s going to take me years to get that right now.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (The cop deal is of course the poster child for what you’re saying.)

    In a way. The “free” 2000 pension enhancement (and not paying enough in during the 1990s) ran the city’s retirement cost to the moon, and that’s how they paid for it. Bloomberg blames an aribitrator, but he had already cut a deal to cut the pay for new hires by 15% at DC 37.

    But no, the new teacher deal is the poster child.

    In other cases, the pensions and other benefits for those leaving are enhanced at the peak of a boom, purportedly for nothing. And the new hires then get screwed in a bust, due to “circumnstances beyond our control.” This way the two are never linked together, because people forget.

    This deal included the ripoff for new hires and the massive handover to those 55 in the same package, right on the edge of a fiscal crisis. The only dispute is if the worse deal for the new teachers pays for it all (their view) or if the amount of funding for the classroom otherwise will have to be cut as well (my view, because they didn’t even include the cost of retiree healthcare).

  • Mark

    Hey, I’m 50. Does that mean I get to retire from paying NYC income tax?

    Cheer up, Larry. The airlines wiggled out of their pension obligations. That means if things get bad enough, there’s a precedent.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Hey, I’m 50. Does that mean I get to retire from paying NYC income tax?)

    Sorry, but under state law, all pension, social security and 401K income is exempt from state and local income taxes at any age for former public employees, but only at age 65 or later for those retiring from the private sector.

    (Cheer up, Larry. The airlines wiggled out of their pension obligations. That means if things get bad enough, there’s a precedent.)

    The airlines got out through a formal process, but politicians do things sleazy. One possibility — you got a pension? Then it is offset against Social Security, with the federal government using the savings for aid to help local governments provide SOMETHING.

    Or take Medicare. They are proposing to cut the pay of physicians under the program. Keep doing that, and fewer will accept Medicare, so even with all the same benefits and more still on the books, the actual health care will be unavailable.

    Legally, the health care industry must take Medicare for full payment, but they have to make a living. So health care will be allocated by payments under the table, meaning that only those with enough money to make those payments would be able to get the benefit of PUBLIC health care funding.

    Just like the better off have been able to access the few public schools actually providing an education here in the past few decades.

    The lost pensions and health care, of course, will fall not on those who took too much out but on younger generations who were forced to put more in. Gee, that brief era when the government actually redistributed income down was good one, wasn’t it? No back to 5,000 years of human history.