Albany looks to save straphangers
This week's forecast is looking sunnier for straphangers, as Albany leaders are likely to unveil a MTA bailout that would stave off crippling service cuts and fare increases.
The compromise proposal being cobbled together could include a payroll tax, a smaller fare increase and a smorgasbord of additional fees for drivers, Albany officials said.
Lawmakers intend to strip out a controversial plan to toll free city bridges, but drivers are likely to still feel stung by increases among a menu of 13 car-ownership fees.
It doesn't seem fair, said Mike Krinke, 49, a Manhattan driver who also uses the subway. I'd rather the tolls go up.
Last week, the MTA board voted to raise fares by at least 23 percent in June and make dozens of service cuts, including eliminating two subway lines and 21 local bus routes. The agency's $1.2 billion debt has ballooned larger than expected, and officials may need to raise fares again next year if Albany doesn't come through with new money.
After the vote, Albany leaders held a closed-door meeting to negotiate alternatives to the tolls.There's a definite determination to do something, said Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Flushing).
Rank-and-file lawmakers have yet to be briefed on the details of the compromise bill, if it covers the MTA's capital plan, and how much drivers will be burned.
I think there will be some resentment, said Lancman, who supports the increase in car fees. But saving the MTA is essential.
A MTA spokesman said the agency would support a plan that funds both operational and capital expenses, and that the fare increase could still be reversed if funding came through in April.
Spokesmen for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said they are looking to pass the MTA funding alongside the state budget this week, but that the timetable was in flux.