Thursday, July 19, 2007

Deal, Or No Deal?

Just at the point where it appeared that the mayor would be thoroughly decongested, it now appears that he may have some breathing room after all. As the NY Daily News is reporting, along with the Post, NY Sun and Newsday, the Albany big three may be on the verge of a mega-deal that would allow the congestion tax to be kept alive for a thorough review by a legislative commission. The legislature would then have until, March, 31, 2008 to grant a final approval on all aspects of the traffic plan.

But as the DN says today, "A person briefed on the talks said a deal would set up a congestion pricing commission, contingent on the feds coughing up $350 milion by October 31...The commission would be required to make recommendations on how congestion pricing would be implemented by March31, suggestions that would be subject to approval by both the City Council and the legislature."

The devil here is most certainly in the details, but the mayor's plan, thought to be dead, now is close to actually coming off of life supports-if not yet breathing on its own. That being said, there is as of yet no deal. As Liz is reporting this morning, "Still No Deal," with the governor's spokesman telling reporters at around midnight to go home because, "All the pieces have not come together."

Still, it appears that something is going to happen here, and we're hopeful that the something will include a thorough review that would subject the taxing component of the mayor's plan to the scrutiny it deserves. Which is why, although we do appreciate the accolades, it is still too early for the Crain's In$ider to give Walter McCaffrey and Richard Lipsky any winning designations. There is a great deal of work that remains before gold medals can be awarded to anyone in this tussle.

What these new developments do set up, however, is an interesting set of circumstances, particularly down at the City Council. What the outline of the deal indicates, is that the council will now have to get into full battle gear over this issue-no more free passes as the legislature feared in an era of term limits. Each of the council members will now have to take a stand, something that they have been able to avoid up until now (while basking in the mayor's beneficence).

And in Albany, what will the commission ultimately come up with? Will a full EIS be required? Will trucks be included and will the fees remain at the current proposed levels? What about the parameters of the zone? Or will, on review, the legislature decide that there are better ways to accomplish congestion relief without a tax?

Stay tuned, this is not over by a long shot. Perhaps we will even see the the "Greater Good" achieved; something that the editorial folks over at Newsday see in the mayor's rather limited vision.