Sunday, July 29, 2007

MTA's Decongestant

Well, well, now. Perhaps the cat is finally out of the bag, especially when the leading cheerleader for a congestion tax is suddenly turning a bit skeptical about what in financial circles is called, "the use of proceeds." In this morning's NY Daily News the paper's editorial asks some hard questions about the proposed fare increase-ones that we have already raised-but no one, least of all the agency itself, has bothered to answer.

The confusion arises from the protean nature of the congestion tax itself. So many claims have been made on the money that we're going to need a forensic accountant, along with the EIS we've called for, to determine where the tax money would be going if the congestion tax was given a green light in Albany.

What we have been told all along, and the NY Times editorial this morning repeats the mantra, is that the proceeds of the tax would be utilized for the generation of a more robust mass transit infrastructure. This has been the major carrot used-the one the editorial boards have been hammering away on- to convince a skeptical public (particularly the folks outside of Manhattan with poor transit options) to support the mayor's tax plan.

As it turns out, our skepticism about all of this has been well-founded. As the DN reported yesterday, in Friday's MTA hearings chaired by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, it was revealed that the MTA budget is counting on some of the money from the congestion tax in order to meet its normal operating expense needs. As the News says today; "We thought the congestion pricing money was slated for capital improvements, not operating funds. Sander had better make himself clear."

Now does everyone finally realize why the public has been so unwilling to buy Bloomberg's pig-in-a-poke? It would seem that much of the public has been a good deal wiser than the mayor's media amen chorus about all of this. As Senator Diaz reminded us all at a recent press conference, we heard the same arguments when the lottery was being championed as a funding mechanism for education. Once the state gets hold of the public's money-well, you know the rest of this story.