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Bridge Tolls

The Latest in Piecemeal Transit Funding

3:43 PM EDT on April 8, 2009

State legislators are about to head home for the Easter and Passover holiday, leaving transit riders to twist in the wind a while longer without an MTA funding plan in place. Martin Malave Dilan, chair of the State Senate's transportation committee, gave Politicker's Jimmy Vielkind one last debriefing before the legislative break:

"We were really trying to get something done, but this 'rush'thing really doesn't work," he said. "Basically, what's on the table isa $25 [auto] registration fee for the 12 counties; there's also apossibility of an additional cent or two [on the gas tax] within the 12county region."

Dilan said nothing is final; both proposals have been floated before.

A payroll tax is still on the table, according to Dilan, somewherein the neighborhood of 34 cents per $100 of payroll. Previously, somemembers of his Democratic conference have expressed reservations about that measure, and Dilan said they are "looking at doing an exemption for education."

If the modest registration fee and tiny gas tax hike are really what's on the table instead of bridge tolls, then we're in trouble. A one-cent raise in the gas tax would generate an estimated $24 million per year. Bill Thompson projected that his weight-based vehicle fee proposal would raise $1 billion, but that's with a $100 charge for the smallest cars and $400-plus for behemoths like the Lincoln Navigator. A $25 average hike pales in comparison.

The ideas Dilan bats around don't add up to any more than $200 million per year, even if you put a rosy spin on the numbers. Shelly Silver's toll plan would likely raise more than twice that amount for the MTA (plus a hefty sum for bridge maintenance). Who knows what the transportation committee is doing behind closed doors, but they don't seem to be hard at work crafting a solid financial foundation for our transit system.

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