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May 26, 2019

NY Senate, Assembly take shots at Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan

March 14, 2019
Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

The fight over the future of the MTA is heating up in Albany.

The New York State Senate and Assembly each released their budget proposals this week, which include some shots at Gov. Cuomo’s congestion pricing proposal.

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The crux of the complaints come from suburban districts — Long Islanders want a guarantee that some revenues from the car-taxing scheme will be directed to the Long Island Railroad, and Hudson Valley reps are looking for tolls paid on the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges to be credited towards the congestion surcharge at 60th St. in Manhattan.

Each chamber also rejected Cuomo’s proposed reforms for the troubled transportation agency.

The governor originally pitched a six-member committee to oversee the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s finances and operations. His budget amendments also include a requirement that the MTA develop a “reorganization plan.”

The Assembly and Senate have different plans in mind.

The Senate attached a measure dubbed the MTA RAIL Act to its proposal, which stands for “Revitalization, Accountability, Improvement & Legitimization.” It would add four rider representatives to the MTA Board as voting members; none of the current rider reps in the body can cast a vote.

The Assembly’s proposal was not as specific — the chamber wants to tie the money allocated to the MTA to operational reforms.

Neither proposal is a major departure from Cuomo’s. The moves are the first in Albany’s annual song and dance that comes with budget negotiations.

Still, the governor is taking a hard line when it comes to MTA funding. His initial proposal aimed to hold the agency’s funds ransom if congestion pricing is not passed — a measure rejected by both chambers.

“MTA reform must be part of the budget,” said Patrick Muncie, a Cuomo spokesman. “We need the M and M – management reforms and the money. Funding for the MTA can’t wait.”

Rachael Fauss of the government reform group Reinvent Albany said the legislature’s rejection of the governor’s reform proposals make sense — they’re not actually budget items.

“The legislature can and should hone in on what should be the focus of the budget,” said Fauss. “The money needed from congestion pricing to ensure sustainable funding for the MTA.”

If nothing else, transit advocates saw the budget proposals as a positive step forward.

Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein said they show lawmakers are “committed to raising serious revenue for transit.”

“It is now up to legislative leaders and the governor to hammer out a final plan for congestion pricing,” Pearlstein said.

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Lawmakers have until April 1 to finish that hammering.

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