Senate Dems Release Another MTA Funding Plan Without Tolls

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has come out with another MTA funding proposal, which again gives commuters who drive across East and Harlem River bridges a free pass. The $1.76 billion it would generate annually for the MTA falls more than $300 million short of the projected revenue from the original Ravitch plan ($2.1 billion). Liz Benjamin at the Daily Politics has the details:

Under the Democrats’ proposal, which does not yet exist in bill
form, the payroll tax would be 34 cents per $100 in the 12-county MTA
service area, but it would be graduated so the outlying counties would
pay less (exactly how much less was not immediately clear).

The payroll tax would generate the lion’s share of revenue: $1.49 billion.

Another key feature: a $1 taxi drop-off fee (50 cents more than what was originally on the table).

Half of the $190 million this fee is expected to generate would be
used to pay the $95 million debt service on a $1.2 billion capital plan
for roads and bridges upstate and on Long Island — a move designed to
woo GOP lawmakers and suburban Democrats who have so far dug in their
heels in opposition to the payroll tax.

Other highlights:

– A $25 motor vehicle registration fee – on top of the existing fee, which was increased in this year’s budget. ($130 million).

– Boosting the auto rental surcharge from 6 to 11 percent. ($35 million).

– A 25 percent increase in the motor vehicle license fee. ($10.5 million).

The proposal also includes several measures related to MTA governance and financial disclosure. Smith has not yet lined up the 32 votes needed to pass a plan in the State Senate, but spokesman Austin Shafran expressed confidence that a majority can be wrangled, reports Politicker’s Jimmy Vielkind.

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver left the door open — fairly wide, I’d say — to supporting the proposal:

I am willing to support any plan that provides a stable, long term funding stream for mass transit and apportions the burden equitably among everyone who has a stake in the MTA’s future.

I have not had an opportunity to fully review the Senate’s plan, but if it can accomplish both of those objectives and command the support of the majority of Senators then it is an alternative we’re prepared to take very seriously.

Let’s just focus on the revenue here. Smith’s plan appears to fall short of Shelly’s own by around $150 – $200 million per year, so something’s got to give. Assuming the fare hike is held down to the range of eight percent, that means the Senate Dems are still prepared to sock New Yorkers with some combination of service cuts and slapdash investment in maintenance and expansion. Will that qualify as "a stable, long term funding stream" that "apportions the burden equitably"? With the MTA’s financial picture growing bleaker by the day and the need for a robust plan all the more apparent, the only answer that makes sense is "No."

  • Mike

    This plan is SO TERRIBLE.

    – Doesn’t do anything to reduce private driving
    – Does make taxis more expensive, encouraging driving instead
    – Increases license fees and registration fees, but doesn’t do anything to charge more for a car/license you do use than one you don’t
    – Diverts money from NYC taxis to upstate roads – WTF?!

  • Ian Turner

    What the hell is up with the car rental tax increase? This serves to make car-free living more difficult, by increasing the costs of occasional renting.

  • I bet they think that the car rental tax will only hit tourists. I wonder what the actual ratio of tourists to residents is.

    Car sharing customers also pay this tax.

    Here’s a revenue idea: instead of taxing car sharing directly, we could rent out on-street parking to the car sharing companies. Charging half of what garages charge would make a lot of cash for the city and it would make it easier and cheaper to live without owning a car.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one that got the message that this is meant to discourage all those pesky car-free types from ruining Detroit’s economy by living without a car.

    Let’s mine the tools that they use to enable not owning a car, such as car rental and taxi fares. And while we’re at it, we’ll leave a gaping hole in the MTA so they can slash service and make life without a car – the way the majority of New York City residents live – even less palatable.

    Don’t think we’re not noticing, Albany.

  • rhubarbpie

    What I find fascinating is that there’s a belief that the Senate plan shouldn’t include something that will convince upstate legislators to vote for it. This is by no means an ideal plan — it clearly needs work, but neither is the legislature ideal. Its ranks include a whole range of members whose interests are completely different than ours. In the past, MTA and road & bridge funding programs were considered and passed together in Albany; why should it be any different now?

  • why should it be any different now?

    Because the state shouldn’t be dictating metropolitan transit funding.

    PS. The idea of taxing of NYC taxi customers to pay for upstate sprawl is disgusting.

  • scheck

    Cutting service should be off the table period. I like Silver’s plan: its clear concise and to the point. If only the Senate had less teabags……

  • Larry Littlefield

    May I point out that with some significant reductions in contractor prices, which Albany passes laws to keep high, the MTA will still need $3 billion per year for ongoing capital needs. How much is coming from the Feds?

    They are planning to use some of this for operating, which means they are planning more borrowing. Which means in 2014 or sooner, it’s all downhill.

    That’s best case.

    What are the odds that the audit they want will finger past decisions in Albany to benefit Generation Greed and sell out the future, now arriving? Will factual information even be presented? Will the numbers even add?

    Again, I prefer an up front doomsday.

  • Glenn

    Why don’t they just come out and say that they just hate Manhattan, want to suck it dry of every last drop of value that it creates for the region and still want to feel morally superior because they are fighting for “the middle class”

  • This is cowardly law making. This was an opportunity to provide better long term funding for the MTA and capture some revenue to deal with the costs drivers impose on the region and we blew it again. I’m getting tired of watching state legislature fall all over itself to screw transit riders in New York City.

  • Bridge tolls should not have been the one thing that was “off the table.” Service cuts should have been.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Bridge tolls should not have been the one thing that was “off the table.”

    Taxes on retirement income, as opposed to wage income, are also off the table. Taxes on wage income can be raised from perhaps the nation’s highest combined federal, state and local rate, no problem. An increase from zero on retirement income, however, is off the table.

    How amusing is this: people who drive from one side of Staten Island to the other are going to have to pay higher registration fees so those who drive from the other boroughs and congest Manhattan can — if they have placards –do so for free.

  • Crudmudgeon

    Here’s a plan: How about we stop sending our dollars upstate and they can’t stop sending back nickels and dimes?

  • Crudmudgeon

    Here’s a plan: How about we stop sending our dollars upstate and they can stop sending back nickels and dimes?

  • Car Free Nation

    Obviously some money for transit is better than none, but I resent the fact that I as a car-free Brooklyn Resident owner of a small business in Manhattan, am paying the lion share of this tax, while the private car owners who drive through my neighborhood get off paying butkis.

  • My favorite part of this proposal is a perfect example of how far these legislators heads are up their behinds:

    Requires internet posting of both the budget and capital plans

    Apparently, none of them have ever visited the MTA’s website. This link is on their front page.

  • It’s not just Manhattan this plan is spiteful of, but everyone who makes do without a personal car. It devoutly protects frequent drivers from fees commensurate with their use but heaps new fees upon old fees for the subway, taxis, and car rentals. It’s a cultural war on cleaner living; I’m surprised it doesn’t include a bicycle registration fee for good measure.

    Disgusting as it is, though, the attack is undercut by its own shortsightedness. It isn’t so much a plan to avoid tolls as a plan to postpone tolls. It doesn’t provide enough funding for the MTA and we’ll be back where we are in six months time, except with a public that has been through at least one subway fare hike and increased fees for all the auto-services their no-car or low-car lives require. Frequent drivers will be looking like motorized Marie Antoinettes, still indulging in unlimited personal transportation granted by the state Senate. This ‘plan’ may be just the thing to finally turn the public against the gazzerati.

  • This plan is terrible. I don’t have much to add beyond what’s already been said upthread by Mike, Ians Turner and Dutton, Cap’n Transit and Car Free Nation.

  • It doesn’t provide enough funding for the MTA and we’ll be back where we are in six months time

    Then they’re gonna have to back to the drawing board. Isn’t the next major election in 2010? The plan is supposed to backfire after the election.

  • Andy

    i’m not following the comments. Ravitch plan had $2.1B annual in revenues; this plan has $1.76B, within 13%.

    So why does everyone think the sky is falling?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I’m not following the comments. Ravitch plan had $2.1B annual in revenues; this plan has $1.76B, within 13%. So why does everyone think the sky is falling?”

    If you followed my previous comments, I didn’t think the Ravitch plan provided enough either, unless supplemented by Doomsday fare increases and a big increase in federal funding.

    How much of the $1.76B would go to the operating/pension hole, and how much to the $3 billion per year (with the harsh savings I would demand) capital plan?

  • Steve123

    Are these politician aware if they raise the tolls on current bridge and tunnels to $13.00, the MTA will collect less money from tolls due to the drivers will go over to the free bridges (unless you are an Staten Island resident), and in the process creating more traffic jams and polluting the environment.
    I know politicians are not that smart.

  • A Guy

    Since we are in the midst of a crisis, wouldn’t it make sense to start thinking about how the NYC Transit’s business model could be restructured? Right now the subways and buses provide one level of service for one price. If as part of this crisis response plan there was to be more funding for Express Bus Lines which charged premium fares or a provision for a downtown Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan express subway during rush hours, wouldn’t this create both a higher level of service and a source of revenue?

    Think of it as business class but for the subway. I, for one, would pay a few bucks more to ride the subway if I could be guaranteed a seat and shave 20-30 minutes off my commute.


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