Will Pricing Be on the Agenda of Newly-Appointed Ravitch Commission?

Earlier this week Governor David Paterson announced appointees to the Ravitch Commission. The 13-member body, headed by former MTA Chair Richard Ravitch, is charged with researching and recommending revenue streams for the MTA in the wake of congestion pricing’s initial defeat at the hands of Assembly Democrats.

At least four commission members can probably — and in some cases, definitely — be counted as supporters of some form of road pricing: current MTA chief Elliot Sander; NYC Office of Management and Budget Director Mark Page; transportation consultant and former MTA Capital Construction President Mysore L. Nagaraja; and Peter Goldmark, former executive director of the Port Authority and currently with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Since Paterson, who made the commission appointments himself, backed congestion pricing, and since Ravitch has reportedly described pricing as "on his agenda," it’s not much of a stretch to assume that the rest of the commission should at least be open to the concept. The question is, with the original proposal’s executioners still in office — and with commission recommendations set to come in December, after the fall elections — will it matter?

Photo: Michael Nagle/New York Observer

  • Larry Littlefield

    Not unless the Commission is prepared to seriously consider bankruptcy as an option. That’s the end game here, and not just at the MTA. The legislature will keep taking and taking until public services are destroyed.

    The Governor can cut deals like Pataki, rant like Spitzer, be nice like Patterson, it doesn’t matter.

    And since it doesn’t matter — no fare increase, no higher taxes on wages, no higher taxes on property. Default on debt and retiree obligations, and start taxing currently tax-free retirement earnings instead.

    If they raise taxes and fares, the legislature will just turn around and once again pass a full-retirement plan for MTA employees after just 20 years of work (this time over-riding any veto) and the transit system will collapse anyway.

  • Moser

    “Still in office” ? You write it like it’s something that might change.

  • JK

    MTA’s finances may be “Falling off a cliff,” but it’s pretty unlikely one of the largest public debt issuers in the United States will be allowed to default. More likely, riders will keep footing a bigger share and maintenance will be deferred and expansions canceled. Even in the unlikely event congestion pricing is resurrected, the size of the gap in the next capital plan is so huge something has to give.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Recognizing that Larry is still burnt by the UFT getting an improvement in their pensions doesn’t necessarily follow that the TWU will be getting a 20/50. Way out of the realm of possibilities actually. And having Larry rant on and on about it has nothing to do with it really. I know some of you are betting people and I’m betting dollars to donuts it won’t happen. Any takers? Lets set a time limit, say by the next Governor election.

  • Larry Littlefield

    That 212 to 0 vote in the legislature is not an indicator of the possibility?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I guess it is impossible to say definitively that there will never be another pension improvement coming out of Albany or City government. And you are clearly correct that the last round involved lots of red ink.

    First though, you can say that some of these pensions are hard to improve. The cops it is all pension. Paying for the ones we have is the next order of business though. And there are enormous differences between the agencies, their respective labor markets and the institutional value of pensions to each. So there are big differences between the UFT and the TWU. But a big factor here is that after the last round most of the TWU people are on the same page with regard to pension values. 20/50 may still be a rallying cry for the whack pack of dissidents but 25/55 works pretty good at retaining transit workers who will likely live 25 or 30 years after retirement.

    Mostly though, as you often point out, there is no blood left in the stone. And, we are entering a more inflationary period and that will have enormous effects on pension funding. Any way you slice it, there is much more to the MTAs financial problem and pension problems than assumptions of pension improvements based on past legislative behavior.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Mostly though, as you often point out, there is no blood left in the stone.”

    What do you mean? Has the transit system collapsed? Has the school system collapsed? Are tens of thousands of businesses leaving the city? Are hundreds of thousands of people leaving the city? Are the parks too dangerous to go in?

    When the succeeded in doing that last time, the pensions and retiree health care got paid. They will continue until they have recreated the 1970s. For the MTA and NYCHA, it may be inevitable. It think it may be time to give up on the schools, too.

    As for the police, if you read my post you know how much more we spend on police than average. And yet, I was told by someone who knows (an ADA), that the police are increasingly committing crimes, because the standards are dropping like a stone due the low starting pay — because all the money is going to the retired. And the non-criminals certainly aren’t on a mission to keep people safe like they were back in the day.

    You have to ask yourself, why not? Members of the NY State legislature don’t send their kids to regular city schools, if they have kids at all. They go to their private politician beach at Kingsboro, not regular city parks. They get their private health insurance, they don’t go to city hospitals. They have their placards, they don’t take public transit. And because they are not elected, the quality of public services doesn’t affect them in any way. And once they walk out with their pensions, they don’t pay taxes either.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “First though, you can say that some of these pensions are hard to improve.”

    Bruno and Silver can get together at 4 am, decide that they and their members will go out with a bang, and pass legislation providing every public employee, including themselves, with a pension at double their final salary rather than half.

    It would then be irrevocable, and take precedence over a single dime of tax money being used for anything else, forever.

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