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De Blasio Deputy Anthony Shorris Ducks Questions on MTA Funding

3:11 PM EDT on April 24, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio's One New York plan, focused on the intersection of income inequality and the environment, doesn't hesitate to make big recommendations to the MTA, like a new subway line. To pay for those plans, de Blasio will need Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to take action, but the mayor isn't putting forward his own ideas about how to fund the MTA.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. Photo: Wikipedia

While the Move NY toll reform plan aligns with the mayor's environmental and equity goals, de Blasio has avoided taking a position on it. Today, his top deputy wouldn't elaborate on City Hall's position except to note that the mayor is "leading the fight" to pass a federal transportation bill.

After his morning keynote at the annual Regional Plan Association assembly at the Waldorf-Astoria, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris continued the administration's waltz around the Move NY Fair Plan during a press scrum.

"Look, I think one thing we’ve said from the beginning is the full funding of the MTA capital program is essential to the city, to this mayor’s agenda, and to the whole One New York plan, and even more broadly, to the whole region," Shorris said. "Everybody’s going to have to figure out how to come together and do that. That’s the city, the state, the MTA itself."

Then Shorris shifted to Congress.

"It’s also very important that the transportation bill in Washington be passed. There’s actually a critical federal component," Shorris said.

I asked if that meant the city wouldn't talk about its transit funding preferences until a new transportation bill passes Congress. “No, it means that we all, though, have to fight to get that transportation bill funded," Shorris replied, "and the mayor’s leading that fight right now.”

When it comes to funding the MTA, however, federal policy is the wrong place to focus. With power in Washington split between the Obama White House and the GOP Congress, federal transit funding isn't about to change much. The arena where the mayor has allies and can actually make a difference is Albany.

Support for toll reform appears to be building in the state legislature, but it looks like this is one fight the de Blasio team isn't going to lead. "I've read summaries of it, not the plan [itself]," Shorris said. "I think it's a really important contribution to the conversation."

Meanwhile, at a breakfast speech to the Association for a Better New York a few blocks away, Cuomo announced a surprise reappointment for well-respected MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast, but didn't reveal any details about how he'd like to fill the gap in the authority's capital program.

"I'm very excited about being reappointed," Prendergast told the Times' Emma Fitzsimmons, "but my mission at hand is to make sure I get a capital program."

Albany's window to come up with a solution ends when the legislative session wraps up in less than two months.

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