Paterson and Smith Think There’s Still Time to Rescue the Toll Plan

RENSSELAER—While on the topic of transportation, David Paterson and Malcolm Smith were asked about the MTA's deficit, and where things

RENSSELAER—While on the topic of transportation, David Paterson and Malcolm Smith were asked about the MTA's deficit, and where things stand on state action to prevent a major fare increase and service cuts.

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"I'd like to get it done because the MTA has a board meeting next week," Paterson said.

"I'm not going to get upset over the fact that legislators have a right to have a comprehensive understanding of the plan."

At the moment, Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are agreed on a plan to raise revenues for the MTA by instituting a two-dollar toll on the East River bridges into Manhattan along with a regional payroll tax. But the proposal is stuck in the Senate, where five Democrats are opposing the measure and Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has yet to take a clear position.

"It wasn't what my greatest wish would be, but this is why we have democracy and not dictatorship," he continued. "The Senate is still working on the plan. Most of all, what we should be, at times like this, is respectful of the process. And be happy you live in a country that has one."

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was mobbed by reporters as he left the event. He hasn't been talking publicly much about the MTA deficit.

"We're still going over the plan itself," Smith said, noting he wanted something "comprehensive" before he went to his members. Smith was asked how he would win over the holdouts.

"I wasn't supposed to be the leader," he said, referring to his ultimately successful bid to win his current post in the face of initial opposition from within his party. "There were three members that were non-starters. I think what they're voicing is their opinion, which they're allowed to do so. We don't have a complete, comprehensive plan. Once we have that I'll see where all the members are."

He would not commit to doing it this week ("you know we have until March 25") and said Republicans would "come on board as they see fit."

Before the marathon press conference on the state's new rail plan, I asked State Senator Martin Malave Dilan where things stood.

"Over the weekend not much happened," he said. He said he was "surprised" to read that State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson now opposes tolls, and when I asked if he thought she and others would come around, he said, "I don't assume anything of my colleagues."

Paterson and Smith Think There’s Still Time to Rescue the Toll Plan