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MTA Bailout Plan Includes East River Tolls


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(MTA) New York State


Drivers would pay to cross the East River and New York City-area companies would be taxed on their payrolls under a new plan to staunch financial bleeding at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.


But transit riders would be spared a potential 23 percent fare increase. A state commission's proposal, released Thursday, calls for boosting MTA fare revenue by 8 percent instead.


The MTA needs to close an estimated $1.4 billion deficit in its operating budget next year and a $3 billion deficit by 2012. The agency is legally required to balance its budget.


Under the state commission's plan, companies in a 12-county area would pay $330 in tax for every $100,000 they pay workers.


Richard Ravitch, chairman of a state commission examining the transit agency's finances, along with Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unveiled the plan Thursday.


It's unclear what the tax-rate might be on NYC companies or whether it would apply statewide.


The Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing also called for cutting administrative costs and "some combining of services," Paterson said, without giving details. The MTA has proposed cutting 2,700 jobs and eliminating bus and subway lines that overlap with other lines or have relatively few riders.


"We are in a very difficult fiscal time, and so it's either going to be fare hikes, or it's going to be tolls and a combination of payroll taxes," Gov. David Paterson said at a news conference Wednesday. The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.


The MTA is required by law to balance its budget, which includes $1.5 billion a year in payments on $27 billion borrowed to rebuild the long-neglected transit system.


Most fares went up in March, as did rates on the agency's commuter railroads and tolls on many of its bridges and tunnels.


The riders' advocacy group Straphangers Campaign could accept another small fare increase if it were coupled with a payroll tax or other new, ongoing source of transit money, group spokesman Gene Russianoff said.


But Greater New York Chamber of Commerce President Mark S. Jaffe said neither businesses nor commuters could afford to pay more for mass transit.


"Right now, people are suffering," said Jaffe, whose group has about 2,000 members.


A payroll tax for transit would require approval from the state Legislature, where the concept is getting a mixed reaction.


Democratic State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has said he's open to raising taxes or creating a new tax to support the MTA. But a spokeswoman for Senate Democrats said in a statement Wednesday that "now is not the time to raise taxes."


Republican State Sen. John Flanagan, a member of a board that reviews the MTA's capital spending, said a payroll tax would be ill-timed.


Silver, Smith and Paterson are from New York City, and Flanagan from Long Island.


The MTA's transit system carries more than 8.2 million riders on an average weekday. More than 300 million vehicles a year use its bridges and tunnels.



~We're 4 New York!


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