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Senate Dems demand riders get vote on MTA board

Gounardes campaigned for passenger representation

With the deadline fast approaching for the state legislature to finalize a state budget, the Democratic State Senate majority released a proposed spending package on March 12 that included an idea freshman Sen. Andrew Gounardes campaigned on: Giving subway riders a vote on the MTA board.

The Senate majority’s proposed budget includes a new bill called the MTA RAIL Act that would give MTA riders a voting seat on the board. It would mean riders would have a direct say in key transit issues such as whether to raise fares.

Under state law, the budget has to be finalized by April 1.

Gounardes, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and several other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, made rider representation on the MTA board part of his campaign platform when he ran for the senate in November. He supports the Senate majority’s budget package.

“We were sent to Albany to give voters the responsive, productive government they deserve,” Gounardes said in a statement. “The Senate majority’s proposal demonstrates that we are finally listening to the concerns of all New Yorkers and are set to work with the Assembly and governor to pass an on-time budget.”

The fiscal package “will finally give riders a true voice on the MTA board,” Gounardes added.

The proposed budget also includes congestion pricing, the concept of charging motorists a fee to drive into Manhattan south of 60th Street to provide raise funding for the MTA for transit repairs and upgrades.

Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director for the advocacy organization Riders Alliance, said the proposed budget demonstrates a commitment from lawmakers to come up with serious ways to raise revenue for transit services.

“It is now up to legislative leaders and the governor to hammer out a final plan for congestion pricing,” Pearlstein told this paper. “As the April 1 budget deadline nears, riders are looking to our lawmakers in Albany for a comprehensive transit funding plan. Congestion pricing remains the largest transit-specific revenue stream on the table, and the only one that will cut traffic, pollution and dangerous collisions.”

Here are other highlights of the Senate majority’s proposed state budget:

  • Legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults.
  • Extending mayoral control of the New York City school system for another three years until 2022.
  • Banning plastic bags and instituting a fee for paper carryout bags.
  • Providing $40 million for community outreach for the US. Census in 2020 to ensure that New York is not undercounted.

The Senate plans to hold public hearings and informational meetings around the city on the effectiveness of mayoral control of schools.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his executive budget on Jan. 15.

The governor, the State Senate and the State Assembly will now negotiate to come up with a final budget.

Read the entire Senate majority budget proposal here.

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