Skelos Ascension Clouds Prospect of Pricing Revival
Yesterday, retiring New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno handed the reins to Deputy Leader Dean Skelos, Republican from Nassau County. Though some see this unforeseen development as an opportunity to move on much-needed reforms in Albany, it's not great news for advocates of congestion pricing.
If Governor Paterson looks to revive pricing via the Ravitch Commission, as is being reported today, he could very well lose the support of the Senate under Skelos, who, unlike Bruno, is an avowed opponent of the concept.
Skelos voted against the formation of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission in 2007, though Bruno supported the move, which was widely seen as a concession to lawmakers who were skeptical of the city's original proposal. (Even ardent pricing foe Assemblyman Richard Brodsky voted to go ahead with the commission.) As late as April of this year, Skelos had this to say at a "virtual town hall" meeting:
I am ... opposed to congestion pricing and have already voted against it once in the State Senate. It's another form of a commuter tax and will place an unfair burden on middle-class Long Islanders who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Ironically, pricing's chances in the Senate could improve if Democrats assume the majority in the fall. Though he didn't make much noise about it, Minority Leader Malcolm Smith reportedly favored the plan.
The Assembly, of course, is another matter entirely.