ALBANY—Top aides to Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith are negotiating with the mayor's office over whether Michael Bloomberg might endorse some version of the M.T.A. bailout bill which is slowly moving through the Senate chamber.
Gene Russianoff, an advocate with NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign, said he was told by Senate staffers that they discussed the possibility in meetings today. Of the Senate's bill, he said, "They consider it a serious effort, even if it is a foundation for discussion." Russianoff said it's "teetering at around 30 votes and they need some help."
A representative from Bloomberg's office declined to comment.
The Senate plan got a cold reception from David Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, neither of whom seem to look at it as a working framework for action. Bloomberg's endorsement would be a sign, at least, that it is being taken seriously by a public figure with much at stake in the M.T.A. negotiations.
"We're going to continue to talk with them, as we have been throughout this entire process, as we have with the Assembly and governor, to fix the M.T.A. mess we inherited," said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Smith.
Today, Bloomberg, who hasn't been openly lobbying for a particular plan, along with U.F.T. President Randi Weingarten and Partnership for NYC President Kathy Wylde, wrote a letter to David Paterson and all four legislative leaders to urge some solution to the problem that was not a "stop-gap measure that, once again, kicks the problem down the road–and shifts the costs onto future generations."
The letter did not outline any specific course of action, but Bloomberg has publicly panned the Senate proposal to impose a taxi drop-off surcharge. Yesterday, State Senator Martin Malave Dilan suggested that provision could be supplanted by a fee on vehicle leases and purchases statewide.
Bloomberg is unlikely to endorse any plan with the taxi surcharge and even if he did endorse the bill, it's not immediately clear how much help it would be.
But Bloomberg does have some ties to the Senate Republicans–last year he donated a large sum to help their reelection efforts–and the votes from some of them would be crucial, since some suburban Democrats have already said they oppose the plan.
One Republican, State Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn, said he wouldn't be automatically swayed.
"Anything is possible," he said. "But wouldn't you think it would be smarter of him to work with us instead of around us to come up with a plan?"