The Smith M.T.A. Plan: Yield to Toll Foes, Worry Later

smith mta The Smith M.T.A. Plan: Yield to Toll Foes, Worry LaterALBANY—Democrats in the State Senate finally have a plan they say will plug the M.T.A.'s current $1.2 billion operating deficit with a payroll tax and four percent fare increase, but does not address the authority's long-term spending needs.

"It deals with their short-term challenge on operation, and we will deal with their capital challenge between now and the end of session," Smith said. A placard displayed by his members offered "financing options" including a "personal income tax surcharge in M.T.A. region" and "new ideas from public and legislators." This is after a forensic audit of the authority.

According to Smith, who was flanked by a dozen senators including many who blocked him from including tolls, the plan includes:

– A payroll tax at 25 cents for $100 of payroll, down from 33 cents in the Ravitch plan. This will raise $987 million.

– A fare increase of four percent, down from eight. This will raise $117 million.

This is a one-house proposal, and it's markedly different than Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's proposal, which includes $2 bridge tolls and would address the M.T.A.'s capital improvement needs. Silver has an event soon, where he will be asked about Smith's plan. Smith said "All of them know the plan. It was not a matter of saying, do you support it or not, but I think you need to ask them."

Liz Benjamin asked Smith whether the fact that the new plan clearly represents the thinking of the old Gang of Three was a sign of his own weakness. He said it was just part of the "paradigm shift."

"Quite frankly, I would hope my members are strong enough and will try to drive agendas," Smith said. "This is a Democratic conference, this is not a Malcolm conference."

"I encourage them: go ahead with the Gang of Three, do your thing."