No more tolls for the East and Harlem River bridges.
That is the headline of a new proposal to help keep the budget-starved MTA afloat.
Based upon several published reports, the scaled-back rescue plan was presented privately to some Democrats in the State Senate.
So far the existing plan, proposed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, has been stalled in Albany because some Democrats from the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn have argued strongly against putting tolls on those bridges. They've argued the tolls would put too much of the financial responsibility to fix the MTA on their consituents.
Here's a look at how the new proposal differs from the old, as reported by the New York Times. There would be a 4 percent fare increase that's half of the 8 percent recommended in the Ravitch plan. In addition, employers would have to cough up a 25-cent payroll tax for every $100 paid in the 12 counties serviced by the MTA. That is less than the 34 cents Ravitch had in mind.
The new plan would prevent immediate service cuts, but it could only act as a stopgap, giving legislators time to fully audit the MTA. Last week, Ravitch warned any stopgap measure would only delay the inevitable and make the long-term fix more difficult. Gov. David Paterson is expected to continue lobbying for the Ravitch plan.
What is unclear is how MTA board members will react. They've already said that without a full rescue plan, the so-called "doomsday budget" would go into effect. That would mean huge service cuts and 23 percent fare increases. Regardless what Albany decides, the MTA board will be voting on March 25.