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Bridge Tolls

Blame Game Continues: Smith Swipes at MTA, Monserrate Goes Anti-Toll

12:30 PM EDT on March 12, 2009

hiram1222.jpgThere's MTA rescue news today from the State Senate, and none of it good. 

Queens Senator Hiram Monserrate, who had considered new tolls on East and Harlem River bridges acceptable as a "last resort," has flip-flopped. The Daily Politics reports that Monserrate now opposes new tolls, and faults the MTA for "failing to explain 'specifically' how toll revenue would be used to pay for service and capital improvements." From a statement released today:

"Solving financial problems on the backs of hard-working New Yorkersnow struggling with their own financial problems is the least desirablecourse of action," the senator stated.

"Tolling of the East River bridges should be considered only afterpassage of the 'Millionaire's Tax' that will ensure the wealthiestresidents of New York pay their fair share."

"For these reasons, support of the so-called 'Ravitch Plan' is not in the best interests of New Yorkers."

Monserrate presides over a district where 53 percent of presumably hard-working households do not own cars and rely on transit, while less than five percent drive or carpool into Lower Manhattan for work. Still it looks as if his own windshield perspective has clouded his judgment enough that he would abandon the only viable plan in existence for a proposal that is positively Weiner-esque in its implausibility.

In other developments, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith this morning laid his inability to unite the Democratic bloc at the feet of the MTA itself. Here is Smith, again from The Daily Politics:

"I know they have this deadline; I just don't think it's appropriate for the MTA to sort of hold the public hostage and say, 'Well if we don't get to the deadline we're going to charge you more.'"

"The public didn't cause their failures in terms of how they managed their budget," the senator continued. "It's the failure of their performance that has now asked the legislators to help."

"Yes, we can be there to help, but then we should have together have decided what the deadline was. Not them to impose their will on us and say 'because we screwed up, that we now are going to tell you if you don't help us we're now going to have a problem or cause a problem for the public.'"

While he did not declare tolls to be completely off the table, Smith says he is not counting votes because he has not seen a proposal -- including the Ravitch plan, apparently -- which "is worthy of having that kind of discussion."

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