De Blasio and rivals rule out East River tolls, Thompson differs on a property-tax pledge
In the final debate before next Tuesday's primary, most of the leading Democrats came out against property-tax hikes and East River tolls.
On Tuesday evening at 30 Rockefeller Center, NBC 4 reporter Melissa Russo asked the Democrats whether they would consider raising property taxes to "help solve" the problem of the city's oustanding labor contracts.
Nearly all of those contracts have expired, and several of the unions are seeking retroactive raises to cover the time they've been working on the old ones, even though those raises could cost the city $7 billion.
While both Republican candidates have ruled out retroactive raises, the Democrats, anxious not to alienate union members, have handled the issue gingerly.
They were more emphatic last night when it came to property taxes.
Asked whether they would raise them to help finance new union contracts, Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner and John Liu all said no.
Only Bill Thompson allowed for the possibility.
"Tax increases are a last resort," said Thompson, in response to the yes-or-no question. "It isn't a yes or no. … We'll see what happens."
As Thompson also pointed out, Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn and John Liu may oppose raising property taxes now, but they voted for property-tax hikes in 2003 when they were in the City Council.
They were also largely opposed to a levy of another sort.
The imposition of tolls on the East River bridges is widely understood to be a component of any realistic congestion-pricing scheme, and congestion pricing is the only recourse transportation advocates consistently put forward as the solution to the M.T.A.'s chronic budget problems.
"Do you support East River tolls?" asked one of the moderators. "Let me begin with you, Ms. Quinn."
"I don't support East River tolls," she responded. "No."
"No, but I have a plan to implement them for out-of-city residents," he added.
"Absolutely not," he said.
"Alright, and Mr. de Blasio?"
Yesterday, de Blasio won the endorsement of StreetsPAC, the city's only political action committee devoted to progressive transportation policies.
Congestion pricing was, however, one of the few quibbles the board members had with de Blasio.
"He hasn’t committed to support for congestion pricing and a fair tolling plan and we hope to see him do that," board member Eric McClure told me. "It’s all a process."