State lawmakers meet on MTA crisis

December 10, 2008 4:35:09 PM PST
As we know, the MTA is facing budget woes. And Wednesday, for the first time, state legislators heard about some possible solutions.All of them cost taxpayers and commuters more money.

It is a package that includes an 8 percent fare hike, a tax on businesses and new bridge tolls. And while state lawmakers certainly didn't like what they heard, they also know they can't rule it out.

"This is hell on wheels for any elected official," Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said.

But it's the honest truth, according to Brodsky. And for that reason, the latest plan to save the MTA must be taken seriously. State lawmakers must decide soon to approve it or come up with a better idea.

"The other option - do nothing - means you'll have a bankrupt system with a 25 percent fare increase and a capital plan that will take us back to the...days of the 70s and 80s," Ravitch Commission chairman Richard Ravitch said.

It was the first time state legislators held a hearing on the plan, which was put forth by a commission whose commission is Ravitch, a former MTA chairman who is trying to warn state lawmakers that right now, the MTA has not one single dollar for the future.

"We have a lot more to do," Ravitch said. "We have to bring the Second Avenue subway up to the East Bronx. We have to extend Metro North on the other side of the river."

The really bad news for straphangers is what would happen if state lawmakers fail to approve a new rescue plan. Then, the MTA's proposal for more drastic fare hikes and service cuts could take effect. Still, there is a resistance from Albany, especially from those who oppose any new bridge tolls.

"I am concerned that tolling these bridges will tax the working class people who go across to the Bronx, back and forth, on a daily basis to work," Manhattan Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat.

The hearing also wasn't without some ribbing. Lawmakers quipped that everyone seemed to control the MTA but those who actually run it.

"What am I, chopped liver? A potted plant?" MTA executive director Elliot Sander asked. "Why are my views of no interest to the board of the MTA?"

Nevertheless, the head of the MTA was cautiously optimistic that in the end, Albany will help.

"So I'm hopeful," Sander said. "But we're not there yet."

State lawmakers say they aren't expected to take this issue up until after the new year.

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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