3:52 pm Aug. 23, 2012
Yesterday, a Long Island judge struck down a tax that funds more than 10 percent of the M.T.A.'s operating budget.
The tax, which applies to all counties served by the system's buses, subways and commuter railroads, was adopted in the doldrums of the recession and is hugely unpopular in the suburbs surrounding the city. The officials representing the suburbs have successfully been chipping away at it, and the court's ruling, which may well be overturned on appeal, represents a victory for them.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg once had another plan to fund the M.T.A.—congestion pricing, which failed in Albany—and today, when a reporter asked him if there was a plan in place should the court's decision not be overturned, he offered a very sarcastic rendition of an old tune.
"Is there a plan in place? Let me see if I can work out a plan for you," he said, to titters from the audience at a press conference about digital support for small businesses. "Why don't we toll people, I got it! Let's toll people coming into the city, OK? Because then it wouldn't be anything outside the city, there's no jurisdictional issues, and we could use the money to improve mass transit! And that would get fewer people on their cars and more people on the subways. The subways would be bettter, more reliable, more pleasurable, and it would be paid for by people coming in and out. That's a good idea isn't it? I think so. But wait, now my recollection ... I betcha the legislature thinks they have a better plan. So my suggestion is you address your question to those people who think they have a better plan."
I asked the mayor why he thought that might be.
"It's just sort of the same thing you see at a national level," he said. "What's the plan?"
UPDATE: Richard Brodsky, a Democratic former assemblyman from Westchester, writes in with the following response to Bloomberg's comments: "Nostalgia for a regressive, poorly thought through tax largely paid by residents of the bronx queens and brooklyn and exempting suburban drivers is no substitute for a fully funded fair mta operating and capital budget."