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Albany Lawmakers Reach Finalized Deal On MTA Bailout

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TWC News: Albany Lawmakers Reach Finalized Deal On MTA Bailout
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Albany lawmakers in both houses are expected to vote today on a finalized MTA bailout agreement, which includes a lowered fare hike for riders and eliminates the threat of service cuts altogether.

The highly-anticipated deal between Governor David Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was announced Tuesday night during a press conference in the state capitol.

"There will be no surprises, there will be no further cuts or fears about fare hikes or toll increases. We have resolved that issue this evening," said Paterson.

The plan would raise the base fare from $2.00 to $2.25, while monthly MetroCards would climb from $81 to $89. A roughly 10 percent increase would apply to all other MetroCards.

Service cuts and a proposal to place tolls on East River bridges have also been scrapped under the new agreement.

"This has been difficult on the commuters of the MTA region. They have suffered, feeling that there would be dramatic increases in fares and service cuts that would actually, in the catchment area in which some lived, would almost prohibit them from getting to work," said Paterson.

In order to generate money, the deal includes a driver's license fee hike of 25 to 30 percent, a $25 supplemental motor vehicle fee, an additional 5 percent sales tax on car rentals, and a 50 cent yellow taxi surcharge -- all on top of a payroll tax which schools would pay upfront this year, but get refunds for next year.

The $2 billion program would help the agency fill a widening deficit and fund infrastructure projects like repairs to stations, subway cars and buses -- ensuring it doesn't return to the way it was a generation ago.

"We just cannot afford to make that mistake again. Tonight we have chosen a better path," said Silver.

Meanwhile, straphangers had mixed opinions over Tuesday's bailout agreement.

"I think it's a better compromise for sure. I think it's a good deal still a deal for the subways," said one New Yorker.

"We're paying for the same service, which isn't that great to begin with, and they're constantly saying they don't have money to pay for the services, well where is all the money going," said another New Yorker.

When the new fares take effect, it will mark the third increase since 2005. Bus and subway riders are also being told to expect more fare hikes in 2011 and again in 2013.

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