Advocacy groups seek MTA plan veto unless there’s upstate parity

Posted on 11/19/15 in Home, News and Updates, No Comments

Advocacy groups seek MTA plan veto unless there’s upstate parity

By Jimmy Vielkind

5:49 a.m. | Nov. 19, 2015

ALBANY — With a concrete plan for investments in the state’s roads and bridges still in the works, an infrastructure advocacy group is asking Republicans in the State Senate to hold the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital plan hostage until state leaders agree to spend a comparable amount in areas upstate.

Mike Elmendorf, executive director of the Associated General Contractors and a leader of the Rebuild New York Now coalition, said after a press conference this week that Senate Republicans should veto the agreed-upon $8.3 billion plan for track and system maintenance and upgrades until the state’s Department of Transportation puts forward a plan for upstate assets.

“Historically, if there’s not parity, the Senate has vetoed it,” Elmendorf told POLITICO. “It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have an MTA plan, but it’s drawing lines and stating priorities.”

The MTA’s plan must still be unanimously approved by a relatively obscure body that includes appointees of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s legislative leaders. That body has 30 days to consider the transit authority’s plan once it is formally submitted, a step that MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said has yet to occur.

State Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican who represents the Senate on the review board, said Wednesday that negotiations about transportation funding are still ongoing, and it was too soon to say if he would sign off.

“I think this conversation’s going on, and we’ll see exactly throughout if there are adjustments made in the city and how that affects the road and bridge plan,” he said. “I think it all, at the end of the day, will be worked out. But everything’s a negotiation. … I believe that we’ll have some type of plan that’s acceptable for roads and bridges as well as the MTA. My concern, of course, is how we’re paying for it. Those questions have to be answered.”

Numerically, senators from upstate New York comprise a majority of the Republican conference in the Senate, although Majority Leader John Flanagan hails from Long Island, where Republicans occupy all nine districts. Flanagan has faced pressure from his upstate colleagues on several issues since he edged out John DeFrancisco of Syracuse to win the top job.

“No decision has been made. We are still reviewing the capital plan and its funding sources,” Flanagan spokeswoman Maureen Wren said.

The governor, a Democrat from Queens who lives in Westchester County, said Wednesday he agrees with calls by Elmendorf and others for parity between the regions.

“They’re right,” Cuomo said after an unrelated event in Rochester. “We always fund transportation needs all around the state, and we need to fund them downstate and we need to fund them upstate.”