Speaking to reporters on a conference call, high-level members of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration criticized a budget proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would have the city pay for more improvements and emergency repairs of the struggling subway system.
"In the 65 years that have passed since the '53 legislation, any contribution by the city has been voluntary and/or the subject to political negotiation between the city and the state. There is no legal obligation on the part of the city to contribute more," New York City's top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, said on the conference call.
But that could change with the state budget, which Cuomo unveiled last week. Shortly after the city's conference call with reporters concluded, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota held his own press conference to respond.
"The executive budget that was proposed last week was to clarify the statutes, to actually, you know, codify it," Lhota said. "If there is a difference of opinion as to what it says, where it says that the City of New York is responsible for the capital program, now we are going to put it in even simpler language than that."
The governor has also proposed allowing the MTA to collect city property taxes, which the de Blasio administration strongly opposes.
The governor has proposed a congestion pricing plan to fund the MTA which would charge vehicles driving into Manhattan below 60th St. De Blasio had opposed congestion pricing, but has been more muted in his criticism since Cuomo's plan was released last week.
"I don't want to get into the punditry," de Blasio said Tuesday. "Something has to give. At the end of this legislative session, the governor and the legislature have to come up with some kind of long-term funding plan for the MTA, or else they are going to have a profound political problem on their hand."
The congestion pricing plan faces big hurdles in Albany, where it would have to pass the legislature.
"If I were to put a bill out there that said, 'From now on if you live in Manhattan, or the Bronx, or Brooklyn, or Queens and you want to come to Staten Island, we are going to charge you for that,'" said Andrew Lanza, who represents most of Staten Island in the State Senate. "I don't think anybody thinks that's fair. I think people from Manhattan, even, would say that's ridiculous. So this is a ridiculous plan."
On Thursday, Lhota is expected to testify at a state budget hearing in Albany. Any congestion pricing plan would likely have to pass as part of the state budget, which is due at the end of March.