Lawmakers debate ways to bail out MTA

April 20, 2009 4:37:01 PM PDT
Lawmakers are trying to come up with a compromise to get enough votes to head of the MTA doomsday service cuts and fare hikes scheduled to take effect June 1.But the big question is will it include tax and toll hikes?

The state Senate, in trying to hammer out a deal, is now looking not at tolls on the East River, but at a gradual system of fare hikes.

Instead of a 23 percent fare hike in June, we would face an 8 percent fare increase. The next year, there would be another 5 percent hike. The year after that, another 5 percent. But sources tell Eyewitness News they would review the financial situation each year to make sure the money's needed.

This is the latest idea to help the MTA, and so is something else, called by some, an obeisity tax.

It also offers suburban companies a dramatically lower business tax that what city companies would pay.

In the city, the tax would be 33 cents on every $100 of payroll. But suburban companies would pay just 25 cents on every $100.

Eyewitness News asked business leaders like Kathy Wylde, of the NYC Partnership, if companies would just pass along that tax and take it out of employees' paychecks?

She said she hopes not, because a strong MTA moves 8 million people a day. So if it is hurt, so is business.

"I think employers who are competing for talent in our region will, in fact, see this as an investment in the future of our economy," she said.

There's a good chance the assembly will say no way to the Senate plan. The governor will likely do the same, meaning we'll be back to square one. As for tolls on the East River, they are still a possibility. So are higher fees at parking garages for non-city residents. Also, a 50 cent taxi surcharge might still happen.

To get all that accomplished will require Republicans saying yes.

And it won't be easy, but is possible, especially if highway money is part of the agreement. That would curry favor with Republicans upstate and on Long Island.

"There are individual republican legislators who understand it's in the best interest of their constituents and best interests of the city to have a functional MTA, not to have these massive fare increases and service cuts," state Senator Eric Schneiderman said.

The Senate plan also would require a $25 increase on vehcile registrations downstate. The state would review MTA finances. That's been a sore point for some.

Now, if you take all of these taxes and fare hikes, it would raise about $1.7 billion for the MTA. Sources are saying that's still not enough. This latest plan may be dead on arrival. But at least the Senate is being creative.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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