For the first time in five years, the state Senate held an MTA oversight hearing Tuesday, in part, exploring congestion pricing and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to radically restructure the agency.
Over the next few weeks, the New York state legislature will face a critical decision: whether to adopt Gov. Andrew Cuomo's congestion pricing plan which would toll vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street. The money would then be used to improve mass transit, including the subways.
While legislators agree there is a problem and revenue is needed to fix it, they aren't all sold on congestion pricing as the solution.
"We need to get this system right. There need to be reforms, there need to be changes, there needs to be accountability," said State Sen. Tim Kennedy, the chair of the state Senate's transportation committee. "The system has to be reliable and dependable for those that utilize it each and every day."
Last week, Cuomo released what are known as the 30-day budget amendments, slight changes to the original budget he unveiled in January. Tucked away in the amendments is a provision to create a new six-member panel with broad oversight of the MTA, including the authority to approve the agency's budget. Not much more is known about the panel. The governor has said he wants more accountability for the MTA Board, even though he controls many of its votes and picks its chairman.
"The 30-day amendments, senator, as I'm sure you know, did not designate who appoints the six members," MTA President Pat Foye said at the oversight hearing. "I expect that there will be discussions between the Senate, the Assembly, and the Executive about who appoints, etc."
Lawmakers are skeptical of creating yet another layer of bureaucracy to sign off on MTA projects.
"None of my concerns have been resolved yet. I think that they have only gotten deeper," said State Sen. Leroy Comrie, the chair of the Senate's public authorities committee. "The 30-day amendments didn't really quantify or qualify anything that would allay the concerns of people from the boroughs around the city."
Cuomo is hoping the legislature will go along with some form of his congestion pricing plan as part of the state budget, which is due at the end of March.