Thursday, March 19, 2009

Senator Dilan: "The Senate's plan will avert fare hikes"
Op-ED – From Senator Martín Maláve Dilan

Straphangers faced with rising housing, food and child care costs shouldn’t have to shell out extra cash under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) proposal to close its $1.2 billion budget gap by taxing riders with extensive service cuts and fare increases of up to 23%.

The Senate’s plan will avert devastating fare hikes, drastic service reductions and job losses in what the MTA calls a “doomsday plan” which it could vote for March 25. We don’t want to make a hasty decision by handing agency executives a blank check at the expense of working families.

Now some have criticized the Senate plan, but it’s the one New Yorkers can live with: no tolls on East River and Harlem River crossings; a proposed 8% fare increase slashed in half to 4% giving riders the lowest fare hike to provide the MTA $117 million in operating revenue for MTA, LIRR and Metro-North; reduced commuting costs for MTA riders through a broader distribution of TransitChek at no cost to employers; elimination of the MTA payroll tax of 33 cents per $100 of payroll, replaced with a 25 cents per $100 of payroll that provides the MTA with $1.16 billion.

New Yorkers would be worse off under an MTA-backed Ravitch Commission plan that would toll now free East River and Harlem River crossings, and they would be hard-pressed under a scheme to add a regional tax of 33 cents per $100 of payroll on business payrolls in the 12 county region served by the MTA.

The Senate proposal will address the most pressing concerns - maintaining service and keeping people moving to maintain the economic vitality of the state. Our plan will meet the MTA’s short-term crisis and then address its long-term capital plans.

Under the Ravitch plan, fares and tolls would skyrocket in June. New Yorkers are faced with enough economic hardships and they don’t need an immediate added expense.
In every and all discussions I have had over the MTA budget, I meet on behalf of the public with their best interests at heart. Plans may differ but my colleagues and I are all working toward a common goal for the betterment of New York State. You must know how you money is being spent. The MTA should not get any more of your hard earned dollars without you knowing where the money is going.
The MTA must be held fiscally accountable for their actions and cannot be irresponsible spenders of the public’s money and must be held fiscally accountable for their actions. That is why our plan establishes a new MTA Task Force on Transparency and Public Information to ensure that the public’s money is spent wisely.
New Yorkers deserve honest accounting, so our plan calls for governance changes and greater measures of public oversight and transparency through a forensic audit of MTA finances over the next few months. The Senate plan also strengthens State Comptroller oversight of finances and operating budgets to ensure that a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility and prudent spending practices are upheld.
Hard working tax payers and small businesses are the backbone of our economy and rely on having prudent access to an affordable public transportation system. Under the Senate plan, they would not be as burdened as the MTA would have them.

New York State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan
Chair The Transportation Committee
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