the littlest borough
M.T.A. Chairman Joe Lhota made quite the splash earlier this week when he announced he will retire at the end of the year in order to contemplate a mayoral bid as a Republican. At the same time he made the announcement, however, Mr. Lhota’s agency approved a round of fare hikes, including an increase on the unpopular Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll, which has some GOP politicos wondering if his political brand took a blow in a critical Republican constituency.
“I can already see the knives coming out about a $15 dollar toll on the Verrazano,” Republican consultant Gerry O’Brien told Politicker. “The M.T.A. is always one of the political entities under attack from politicians.”
However, Bob Scamardella, Staten Island’s Republican county chairman who has spoken approvingly about Mr. Lhota’s candidacy in the past, argued Mr. Lhota’s broader profile will be at stake, not just one issue.
In order to keep the city’s fiscal house in order in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled new cuts and streams of revenue over the weekend. Among the changes, school-lunch fees will increase from $1.50 to $2.50, while city libraries will see their funding axed to the tune of $8.3 million. Asked about it during a press conference today in the hard-hit Howard Beach neighborhood in Queens, Mr. Bloomberg defended the budgetary measures.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t like A, B and C,’” he argued. “Well, what things would they like us to raise taxes [on]? The issue here is that we’re trying to find some balance so that everybody shares a little bit in the pain, everybody contributes; we’re all in this together. And do it such that people can afford [it]. It’s not asking a lot to go, in this day in age, from one price to another if it’s a relatively small price. But if a large number of people do it, it contributes significant revenues.”