Gov. Paterson and the New York State Legislature agreed on a transit funding plan today that they estimate will generate $2.26 billion for the MTA and prevent deep service cuts and layoffs, while holding the fare increase to 10%, instead of the planned 21-30% increase. The package reportedly includes a 0.34% payroll tax in the MTA region, a taxi surcharge, and increases in vehicle registration, drivers’ license, and car-rental fees. (View the bill here). However, there are questions over how much money the package will actually raise.
The deal does not include tolls on currently free East and Harlem River bridges, which would have been a natural revenue source for the agency’s capital or operating needs. However, the package reportedly funds the first two years of the MTA’s 2010-2014 capital program, which makes it superior to an earlier plan announced this week that did not address the issue at all. After that plan was announced, advocates and union and business leaders sent a letter saying they would withdraw support for the payroll tax if an MTA package did not fund capital needs. Legislators also took considerable criticism from the NY Daily News, NY Post, and Newsday editorial boards for not funding a full capital program.
In a statement, the Tri-State Campaign congratulated legislators for stopping service cuts and fare hikes, but said they must continue working to completely fund the next MTA capital program.
The package also leaves the future of Long Island Bus unclear. It does not appear to include regional bus reforms that would have had the MTA accept full financial responsibility for the agency. LI Bus’s deeply flawed funding structure, which splits responsibility between the MTA, Nassau County, and the state, was the reason that Nassau County bus riders were singled out for a 75% fare increase under the “doomsday” budget. State Sen. Craig Johnson, who deserves credit for getting behind the package and stopping what would have been disastrous fare increases for many of his constituents, should insist that LI Bus riders get equal treatment.