Key Democrats Politely Oppose M.T.A.-Funding Tolls

martin dilan Key Democrats Politely Oppose M.T.A. Funding Tolls ALBANY—For all the rhetoric of urgency, it doesn't seem like lawmakers will have the stomach to support bridge tolls that Richard Ravitch recommended to bail out the M.T.A.

State Senator Martin Malave Dilan said he hasn't made up his mind on proposed tolls on bridges spanning the East and Harlem rivers, but his "inclination is to be opposed." The Brooklyn Democrat, who now chairs the Transportation Committee, said he will reserve judgment until after two hearings scheduled for mid-February. But as the relevant committee chairman, his support and advocacy for the proposal would be crucial.

"I was against congestion pricing, so my inclination is to be opposed," he allowed. Contrast that with the video below, in which Dilan doesn't address the topic directly.

It was taken last week after Ravitch met with Democratic state senators. Smith said there was "robust discussion" about bridge tolls, but "I am not prepared today to say the conference is 100 percent supportive of it. I will tell you what we are 100 percent supportive of is, and that is to make sure that the ridership does not have a difficulty moving around."

State Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district spans the East River, has come out against the tolls. (He was at a budget hearing and missed Ravitch's visit.) State Senator Jose Serrano is, not surprisingly, against tolling bridges on the Harlem River in his district.

Dilan and several other Democrats interviewed were supportive of the payroll tax. Smith addressed the proposal as "not something that we would have raised, nor did we raise, but clearly if the business community is supportive of that, we would have no problem supporting that issue with them."

Republicans, including State Senator John DeFrancisco, have cast the proposal as job-killing. It is expected to raise around $1.5 billion, while bridge tolls account for about $600 million. Dilan said he didn't know whether or how the revenue foregone by tolls could be made up.

David Paterson has made assisting the authority a rhetorical priority — he mentioned it in the State of the State address — but has said nothing specifically. On Tuesday, he said some form of the Ravitch proposal would be enacted within "a reasonable period of time." Sheldon Silver and Malcolm Smith nodded in agreement.