Brodsky: Assembly “Working to Find Partners” for MTA Funding

brodsky.jpgLast week we e-mailed a short list of questions about the MTA financial crisis to Assembly Member Richard Brodsky. Here are his responses, received yesterday, shortly after we posted our "doomsday" scorecard.

Streetsblog: Given the MTA’s need for both operating and capital funds, what revenue streams would you like to see tapped at this point for each?
Richard Brodsky: Earlier this year, Speaker Silver and the Assembly were the only State leaders to adopt an MTA funding plan, which was based on the Millionaire’s Tax. I supported the Speaker’s efforts and will do so again.

SB: What is your reaction to reports that the Ravitch Commission may recommend tolls on East River bridges, and/or the introduction of congestion pricing, as MTA funding sources?
RB: Dick Ravitch is a smart, tough, thoughtful man and the Commission’s recommendations will be taken seriously.

SB: Are you comfortable with a fare increase for transit riders, as the MTA is considering?
RB: I have very publicly argued for increased public support for the MTA on the capital and operating sides and will continue to do so. The financial responsibility for the mass transit system should not be limited to those who use the system, but should include contributions from those who benefit from it.

SB: How quickly do you anticipate Albany will act on the MTA crisis, once the authority presents its proposed budget and the Ravitch Commission weighs in?
RB: It’s very difficult to say. Again, the Speaker and the Assembly have a long record of protecting mass transit.  We’re working to find partners.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Again, the Speaker and the Assembly have a long record of protecting mass transit. We’re working to find partners.”

    In partnership with Pataki and Bruno, Giuliani and Bloomberg, a host of special interests, and businesses such as Bear Stearns, the Speaker and Brodsky have a long record of protecting the present of mass transit (now the past) at the expense of the future (soon to be the present) by borrowing money and granting pension enhancements.

    This is the future they have made. And, with their placards and guaranteed jobs, pensions and health insurance, it is one they are exempt from.

    Unfortunately, the past currenlty matters much more than whatever the Ravitch commission will say. If we all pay higher taxes and fares, rather than save the system, the money will merely fund the 20/50 pension plan (down from 25/55) that Brodsky and his “partners” in the legislature have already voted for unanimously. If by partners, Brodsky means someone to buy another $27 billion in MTA bonds at low interest rates, I’ll pass.

  • Dave

    I would like to know how Brodsky would have reacted had the question been about tolls on the East AND Harlem River bridges. A bridge is a bridge with very high maintenance costs for them all.

    And unless we toll the HRB Brodsky’s rich Westchester-ites will be the only suburban dwellers to enter the city for free.

    Toll all the bridges, reintroduce two-way tolls everywhere and put the commuter tax back. How much money will that get us to delay/reduce the fare increase?

  • Larry Littlefield

    How about this deal for the MTA? If it’s good enough for the Big Three…

    “General Motors Corp. may ask unsecured debt holders Franklin Resources Inc. and Pimco Advisors LP to accept as much as two-thirds less than the face value of their bonds as the automaker cuts debt in a bid to win U.S. government aid. GM bonds trade for 13 to 22 cents on the dollar and the company may only offer a slight premium over that.”

    MTA bonds are supposedly secured by fare revenues. But there won’t be any fare revenues if the system collapses.

    “Layering federal debt help on top of the existing debt wouldn’t leave us with a viable entity. Let’s hope that all constituencies contribute with an equal amount of pain.”

    Add to that a deal in which the employer contribution to the pension plans is permanetly set at a reasonable number (say 8%) with the employees resolving the balance, having retirees pick up some of their health insurance cost (at least they have insurance), and making affluent retirees pay the same state and local income taxes as wage earners on the same income, and the MTA’s financial problems go away.

    Hey Ravitch, put bankruptcy on the table, if nothing else as a negotiating point. Everyone’s doing it. So why should we sacrifice the future to pay for the deals of the past?

  • vnm

    Here’s one of the people Brodsky has to deal with in the Assembly:

    Mid Hudson Radio link

    Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun (R,C – Blooming Grove) today railed against a proposed plan by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. to raise registration fees on vehicles by as much as $400 dollars per year. Thompson’s plan is designed to tax vehicle owners outside of New York City in order to pay for the mismanagement and debt ridden Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
    “To suggest that New York raise registration fees so that the MTA Board can continue on with their gross negligence and mismanagement is outrageous and should be looked into by both Attorney General Cuomo and State Comptroller DiNapoli,” stated Assemblywoman Calhoun. “There is absolutely no reason why New York taxpayers who live within the 12 counties served by the MTA should subsidize the MTA through car registration increases which amount to a tax on New Yorkers simply for owning a car. During this tough economic time, the MTA must learn to do the same or more with less just as the state must do and just as struggling families have to do in order to provide food, health care and a home for children.”

    According to Thompson’s plan, the plan would be phased in over a number of years and make owners of lighter cars pay a registration of $100 per year and owners of heavier cars, such as SUVs, pay $400 dollars a year more in registration fees. Thompson says this would raise an additional $1 billion for the MTA. Additionally, Thompson has called for the reinstatement of the “Commuter Tax,” which he claims would bring in $762 million more to the MTA.

    “I have always been and continue to be opposed to the commuter tax which cripples the budgets of families in Orange and Rockland Counties who have to go to New York City for their daily work,” continued Assemblywoman Calhoun. “The last thing any taxpayer needs is two additional taxes to pay in order to put food on their table and a car in their garage. I invite Mr. Thompson to come up to Orange and Rockland Counties and explain why my constituents should have to pay for the mismanagement of the MTA.”

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Not for nothing VNM but Brodsky DOESN’T have to deal with her in the Assembly, she is in the minority, a huge minority. He doesn’t need her vote for anything and she can make all the speeches she wants. The Assembly conference is hugely Democratic and R-Cs don’t get a lot of juice up there. Brodsky does what he does for his own reasons. The sad thing is the huge block of city votes that sustain his conference despite the Democrats growing strength in the burbs and upstate. The fate of all these good plolicy transportation strategies is all wrapped up in a complex rope-a-dope involving the fare increases, service cuts, Ravitch commission and state budget intrigues.

  • vnm

    R-Cs don’t get a lot of juice up there

    Thank God. I thought the Dems were bad enough.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    And, Larry, again with the 20/50 plan? When it doesn’t pass do you take credit for the valiant web struggle you have waged or give credit to those who told you to stop beating a dead horse? The rest of your excellent analysis is diminished by your continued bashing of what is not.

  • My gut instinct says that when Brodsky says “partners” what he means is corporate partners interested in buying naming/advertising rights for subway stations etc. I’m not sure why but that’s how I read it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “And, Larry, again with the 20/50 plan? When it doesn’t pass do you take credit for the valiant web struggle you have waged or give credit to those who told you to stop beating a dead horse? The rest of your excellent analysis is diminished by your continued bashing of what is not.”

    People thought the same of the 25/55 pension plan for teachers. And then, with the state and city staring down the barrel of the fiscal crisis, in the dead of night there it was — eventually to take all the additional funded promised to improve NYC schools with it.

    How many years will it take for me to unlearn that lesson? It happened something like 10 months ago!

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I guess you were so hurt by the 25/55 that the specter of 20/50 will haunt you forever. Self-interest alert, my wife is a teacher but won’t have the 25 until 61. When I was a kid, I really liked the younger teachers a lot more. Still, IMHO 20/50 sleeps with the fishes and rambling on about it detracts from the debate.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I guess you were so hurt by the 25/55 that the specter of 20/50 will haunt you forever.”

    The pain hasn’t hit yet, because it hasn’t been paid for, but it will be.

    And who say’s it’s over? I’m waiting for them to roll out the five year retirement incentive to “save money,” balanced by lower pay and benefits for new hires, or just not hiring new people, and cutting services.

  • t

    “The financial responsibility for the mass transit system should not be limited to those who use the system, but should include contributions from those who benefit from it.”

    Yet he was 100% against congestion pricing.

  • Everyone expects the Ravitch Commission to recommend some kind of East River tolls, because they are the best way for the government to recoup some of the billions it spends subsidizing car use in the city. As with congestion pricing, we can expect the car users to squawk about it, and pandering politicians like Brodsky and John Liu to amplify their squawks.

    It is critical to frame it in this way: the government has a limited amount of money to spend on transportation. This can be spent on cars or transit, and right now car users get proportionally more subsidy than transit users.

    The government’s revenues are declining, its debt is increasing, and it needs more money to spend on transportation. We can ask transit users to contribute more, or we can ask drivers. Which is fairer?

    No one succeeded in framing congestion pricing this way, which is how Brodsky was able to exclude transit from view and play his infamous shell game where he claimed that congestion pricing would have been a “regressive tax” because middle-class drivers would have paid slightly more relative to their incomes.

    If we want to see bridge tolls or congestion pricing passed, the Ravitch Commission will have to frame it as a stark choice: drivers pay or subway and bus riders pay. They could do this by releasing two alternative sets of recommendations, one including bridge tolls and one not. If people realize that bridge tolls could mean the difference between a $100 monthly Metrocard and a $150 one, could Hakeem Jeffries still oppose the tolls and claim to be a transit advocate?


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