ALBANY—Republicans have started formally making their case against the M.T.A. bailout bill, voicing objections for the record that will not, barring some unforeseen act, affect its final passage.
In the State Senate, Democrats Martin Malave Dilan and Bill Perkins answered questions as best they could. Dilan weathered the most blistering of the Republican storm, getting grilled by State Senators John Flanagan and Tom Libous.
Flanagan attempted to ask Dilan whether the bill, which he considered a “mandate,” would be subject to an executive order issued last week by David Paterson requiring more stringent reporting related to mandates.
Dilan refused to answer questions regarding the executive order. Flanagan attempted to ask Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and State Senator Carl Kruger, the chairman of the Finance Committee, about whether the bill would be subject to this scrutiny. Neither yielded to the question, which was ruled out of order because neither had spoken on the bill. (Smith did speak to accept a message of necessity from Paterson.)
“Apparently there’s nobody on the Senate majority side willing to yield to a series of questions related to an executive order,” Flanagan said, prompting State Senator Joe Robach, who sits next to him, to boo. “There is a direct correlation between this action and raising local property taxes.”
There is agreement on this point. The New York State Association of Counties issued a statement saying the M.T.A. bill “directly contradicts those efforts and puts the onus, once again, on New York’s hardworking property taxpayers.”
Libous grilled Dilan as to whether the bill would provide funding for upstate roads and bridges. It does not, though there is language expressing “legislative intent” to fund a road and bridge plan later.
Libous said this was a break in the tradition of how things have been done since 1995. Dilan kept repeating the same answer: “Right now we’re dealing in this legislation with the M.T.A. financial package, which deals with their operating deficit and also a two-year capital plan.”
In an expression of exasperation, Libous banged his glasses down onto his desk.
“The upstate roads and bridges are being forgotten in the gluttony,” he said. “I’ll be amazed at whether or not anything is done, because I don’t know where you’re going to find the revenues to do it.”
The Assembly moved after the Senate. The bill passed through the Ways and Means and Rules committees before going to the floor; several Assembly sources said Speaker Sheldon Silver did not want to take up the bill before the Senate did, making sure it passed there first. His spokesman denied this.
In the Ways and Means Committee, Assemblyman Jim Hayes asked whether there were safeguards in the bill to prevent “sweeps” of money.
“When the legislature robs the money from the Environmental Protection Fund,” Hayes said, “can they do the same thing with the mechanisms laid out in this bill?”
There was no firm denial. The bill was reported to the floor.