MTA Battle Heads Upstate

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With Senate Democrats unable to agree on a bailout plan for the MTA, they are turning their sights to some upstate Senate Republicans who have manufacturing jobs tied to companies that build the buses and trains.

In particular, Democrats are lobbying four upstate senators: Sens. George Winner, R-Elmira; Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton; Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Warren County; and Joseph Griffo, R-Rome.

They each have bus and train subcontractors in their districts, from Orion Bus Industries in Oriskany, Oneida County, Bombardier Transportation in Plattsburgh, BAE Systems in Johnson City near Binghamton and a joint venture between Alstom and Kawaski in Hornell, Steuben County.

“It would seem to me that constituents in those districts have a stake in making sure that there is a well-funded MTA capital plan that produces jobs in those districts,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, whose staff later circulated a report on the MTA’s economic impact on the state.

Senate Republicans have insisted that an upstate capital plan for roads and bridges be tied to any bailout of the MTA, which plans massive fare hikes and service cuts without an agreement with state lawmakers.

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, met briefly yesterday to see if the sides can reach an accord.

So far, the 32 Democrats have yet to agree on an MTA bailout, with some opposing tolls on the East River bridges and others opposing a payroll tax that they say would hurt suburban communities.

“I think we need Senate members,” Smith said when asked about needing Republicans to get a deal done. “Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, the MTA is not a partisan issue.”

Gov. David Paterson, speaking earlier today to the Transport Workers Union in Albany, implored them to lobby legislators to make an MTA bailout a reality.

“What every leader has to understand is no matter how hard you work and no matter how much you try, if you are alone you can accomplish very little,” he said. “I want to appeal for your support today. While you are in Albany, go by and visit some of the legislators who are not giving up the vote so we can put an MTA plan together.”

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