As Criticism Flies, Dilan Proposes Commuter Tax for M.T.A. Capital

ALBANY—Most Democratic state senators have spent the day defending themselves from reporters asking if they feel responsible for the M.T.A. fare hikes. The answers are variations on it's not our fault and the M.T.A. should have worked with us.

State Senator Martin Malave Dilan, the chairman of his chamber's transportation committee, told me that he "didn't force them to do it" and "we can't do it on their timetable."

Then he showed me a drafted piece of legislation he plans to introduce that would reintroduce the commuter tax as a dedicated funding stream for the M.T.A.'s capital needs. The plan his chamber agreed on didn't do that.

"It would send the money to the M.T.A.," Dilan said, noting that it could help make up the estimated $600 million that would be generated by $5 bridge tolls under a plan put forward by Richard Ravitch. They have proven to be the sticking point in the chamber when it comes to the M.T.A.

State Senator Marty Golden, a Republican member from Brooklyn, told me a few weeks ago he would be in favor of reinstating the tax, which was repealed in 1999. It generated as much as $360 million.

Dilan's bill has yet to be introduced, and it's unclear if Majority Leader Malcolm Smith supports it. State Senator Tom Duane normally introduces a reinstatement of the commuter tax each year on April 15, but said he might act earlier to preempt Dilan.

He called Dilan's measure "well-intentioned" but doesn't believe commuter tax revenues should be dedicated to the M.T.A.

"The New York City commuter tax should be for New York City," he said. "And if we hadn't lost those millions from the commuter tax years ago, we wouldn't be in such a dire situation with regard to the M.T.A."

  As Criticism Flies, Dilan Proposes Commuter Tax for M.T.A. Capital