NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York’s lawmakers need a “time-out” to solve an impasse over a financial rescue plan for the state’s mass transit agency, Governor David Paterson said on Thursday, vowing to bring them back to enact a solution.
A plan approved earlier by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to raise New York City transit fares and bridge and tunnel tolls and sharply cut service, in order to close a $1.2 billion deficit, will be implemented unless the state comes up with a plan to provide more money to the agency.
The MTA runs New York City’s buses and subways and commuter rail lines, as well as some bridges and tunnels.
“I will exert any means necessary to make sure we don’t have 20 to 30 percent increases on tolls and 20 to 30 percent increases on fares,” Paterson, a Democrat, told reporters after an Association for a Better New York breakfast.
Paterson said the MTA issue must be fixed before any other, though he said he would not make lawmakers work during the upcoming Passover and Easter holidays.
Still, Paterson cannot force lawmakers to vote. They can complete a session simply by sending a bill to committee, which means the governor would have to keep recalling them.
The Democrat-led Assembly adjourned for the weekend after enacting a $132 billion budget plan.
The Senate, led by Democrats for the first time in decades, might not finish the budget until next week.
Majority Leader Malcolm Smith only has a two seat majority and some of his members rejected the MTA bail-out plan of new East River tolls and a local payroll tax supported by Paterson and the Assembly.
The Senate’s MTA solutions, which the New York Post says include parking garage tax hikes, a 50-cent tax on taxi rides, higher car registration fees and a surcharge on car rentals, do not raise enough money, Paterson said.
“We are still considering all options, with the exception of tolls, and will continue to work with the governor, Assembly and MTA to come to an agreement,” said Smith’s spokesman.
Speaker Sheldon Silver agrees with Paterson that a swift fix is needed, his spokesman, adding, “Silver agrees with the governor that we cannot let dramatic fare hikes and service cuts for the MTA go into effect.”
Paterson blamed Senate Republicans for not compromising with their Democratic colleagues, while Kathryn Wylde, who leads The Partnership for New York, a business group, said the MTA impasse was partly due to weariness over tax increases.
Editing by Leslie Adler