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Hiram Monserrate

Where Does the Working Families Party Stand on MTA Rescue?

3:49 PM EDT on March 23, 2009

bus_boarding.jpgMillions of New York City bus riders are counting on an MTA rescue plan to maintain service and hold fares down.

Last week, some of the biggest unions in New York came out in favor of the Ravitch Commission's MTA rescue plan, including the bridge tolls that a handful of state senators refuse to support. So, what is the stance of the Working Families Party, which is closely aligned with labor? Founded in 1998, the WFP is a growing force in city and state politics. Its endorsement, and the ballot line that comes with it, has become a sought-after electoral commodity. In the current round of state budget talks, the party is widely credited for advancing higher taxes on wealthy New Yorkers, now viewed as all but inevitable.

A plan to save transit service and spare New Yorkers the burden of drastically higher fares would seem to match the Working Families Party agenda perfectly. The party has a public transportation plank, and has touted a halt the hike website in tandem with the Straphangers Campaign when higher fares loom. The car commuters who would pay bridge tolls earn far more, on average, than the transit riding majority. But on the question of the Ravitch Plan, the party has been mum in public.

"We haven’t taken a pro position on the Ravitch Plan itself," said WFP spokesman Dan Levitan. "We haven’t had the bandwidth to do a public campaign around this, since we've been fighting so hard on the general budget. We've been trying to defend the Silver/Paterson [transit funding] compromise in the Senate."

In the last election, three of the key players in the Senate hold-out were endorsed by the party: Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, Fare Hike Four member Hiram Monserrate (indicted on six counts today for assaulting his girlfriend), and Kevin Parker, a bridge toll opponent whose Brooklyn constituents face a slew of service cuts [PDF]. Will the Working Families Party ballot line still be available to these legislators if doomsday comes to pass?

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