Gridlock on M.T.A. Bailout; Silver ‘Believes’ It Will Pass, Eventually

ALBANY—A plan to raise revenue from East River bridge tolls and a region-wide payroll tax for the beleaguered M.T.A will not pass the state legislature this week.

Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat of Upper Manhattan the Bronx said he didn't believe there would be a vote in his chamber this week. When asked during a press conference about loosening the Rockefeller Drug Laws, Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "I think that we will get there, it may take a little longer than we ultimately anticipated."

Espaillat has rounded up 23 members to sign a letter that opposes Silver's plan to put $2 tolls on bridges over the East and Harlem rivers. He was at the same press conference, and told me that his position is to oppose any plan including tolls. He said that a payroll tax would provide enough money to avoid a "doomsday budget" put forward by the M.T.A. from taking effect March 25.

"That's a fair approach," Espaillat said. "Right now, I think it's a regressive, poor man's tax."

Even without Espaillat and those who have said they oppose tolls, there are enough Democratic votes in the chamber to pass the plan.

That is not the case in the State Senate. Republican Leader Dean Skelos said members of his conference—there are 30—will not vote for the payroll tax. At least two Democrats—Carl Kruger and Ruben Diaz Sr.—say they will not vote for a package which includes tolls.

"I don't know what they're going to do," Diaz just told me by phone. "If he doesn't have the vote, he isn't going to do it. And I'm voting against it."

Silver was asked what Majority Leader Malcolm Smith might do about the bill.

"We believe, and I believe right now that there are senators including Senator Smith who believe the very same things that we believe," Silver said. "I believe that they believe that the fare increase is unacceptable, the service cuts are unacceptable, and we must step up to the plate and provide the necessary revenue to avoid that."

CORRECTION: I misidentified the area Espaillat represents. Gridlock on M.T.A. Bailout; Silver ‘Believes’ It Will Pass, Eventually