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Albany Reform

More Mixed Signals on Pricing’s Chances Under Paterson

3:46 PM EDT on March 17, 2008

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"Today is Monday. There is work to be done."

So said David Paterson, who was sworn in as New York's 55th governor just after 1:00 this afternoon. Two Mondays from now, the City Council and state Legislature will need to have adopted a congestion pricing plan if the city is to receive $354 million in federal transportation funds. Opinions on whether the governor will work to make that happen still vary wildly, even among those who've talked to people close to Paterson.

Here is the Daily News, from Friday:

Incoming Gov. David Paterson may have declined to take a stand on congestion pricing Thursday - but members of his inner circle have been lobbying for the proposal.

During his first press conference since Gov. Spitzer resigned in disgrace, Paterson said he needed to delve deeper into details of the plan to charge motorists $8 to drive south of 60th St.

"Although the mayor has not directly discussed congestion pricing with him, it would seem to be a good sign that people very close to the new governor are supportive," a City Hall source said.

Former Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch and former Paterson campaign manager Luther Smith have been pitching the toll scheme as a way to fund mass transit improvements in underserved minority communities.

Smith is president of Lynch's lobbying firm, Bill Lynch Associates, which has been doing pro-pricing outreach for Communities United for Transportation Equity.

Both Lynch and Smith are advising Paterson as he makes the transition to the state's highest office.

And here is a Crain's story filed yesterday:

AS THE DEADLINE APPROACHES for legislative approval of congestion pricing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan faces a new hurdle in the state Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, has supported the idea, but he is making no effort to rally his conference behind it. Democrats from the boroughs outside Manhattan don't want to endorse a plan that they believe is unpopular with constituents.

"It's a very heavy lift, and Malcolm recognizes that it's a problem for his members," one senator says. "He's not pressuring us."

Moreover, Mr. Bloomberg has not delivered transit upgrades that senators have requested for their districts. Instead, the legislator says, "I've gotten the same talking points over and over."

The back-and-forth continues from last week, when Paterson said his incoming admin was "taking a look" at pricing. It's the only public statement he's made so far on the subject.

On Wednesday Crain's will host a breakfast forum at the Battery Park Ritz-Carlton featuring Mayor Bloomberg and federal Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. The event is sold out.

Photo:
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press via New York Times

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