Albany pumps the brakes on MTA funding plan in rebuke of Hochul’s move to ditch congestion pricing

Albany lawmakers pumped the brakes on a last-ditch funding plan for the MTA on Friday — in a major rebuke of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s sudden move to scrap congestion pricing.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said lawmakers would leave the capital and end their legislative session without a deal on a glorified IOU replacement for the $1 billion a year congestion pricing would have raised for the crumbling transit agency for each of the next 15 years.

“I will not be back tomorrow,” Stewart-Cousins said at around 5:30 p.m. Friday — after lawmakers spent nearly two days scrambling to come to an agreement about if and how to replace the lost MTA revenue.

Gov. Kathy Hochul drew fire on nearly all sides for scrapping congestion pricing seemingly with a Plan B to make for a $15 billion loss to the MTA. Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Proponents of congestion pricing — which would have charged drivers $15 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street starting June 30 — hailed the delay as a win.

“Governor’s proposed IOU was nothing more than a pinky promise that the bond market would NEVER believe let alone finance, and would have been the nail in the coffin for congestion pricing. No thanks!” said state Sen. John Liu (D-Queens) in a post on X.

“It forces a longer conversation about what we should do and I hope she (Hochul) reverses course and allows congestion pricing to go into effect,” added Assemblyman Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan).

The delay potentially puts years of MTA funding in limbo after Hochul scrapped the controversial congestion plan without an apparent Plan B to replace its revenue other than a widely reviled — and quickly rejected — tax hike.

The only real agreement across the New York political world amid the political chaos was about Hochul.

“The great consensus is that Hochul is a moron,” said John Samuelsen, the Transport Workers Union International president, about the MTA board, on which he’s non-voting member.

Pro-congestion pricing lawmakers vocally opposed Hochul’s last-minute MTA bailout Friday. AP

Hochul’s shock decision Wednesday to indefinitely pause congestion pricing — while hailed by many in and around New York City long concerned about the cost of the tolls on the working class — came just two days before the state legislative session’s end.

The high-stakes legislative race was complicated by an actual horse race – the Belmont Stakes – that threatened to boot state lawmakers from their hotel rooms this weekend, making it unlikely the session would be extended.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who had a Saturday flight to Europe booked, said lawmakers can still return to the legislature “sometime between now and January” to vote on a funding replacement.

“I would assume the MTA would feel a lot better if they have something now to go to the bond market with, but if the three legs of the stool can’t get to a place we’ll have to figure it out, like I said, at a later date,” he said.

The indefinite pause of congestion pricing raised questions from many lawmakers about how much money had been sunk in the program, including on license plate readers in Manhattan. Christopher Sadowski

But some lawmakers who publicly opposed the bailout said there already was a source of MTA funding: congestion pricing.

“I cannot in good conscience ratify a decision that will eliminate a significant, dedicated revenue source for the MTA’s capital plan while leaving the MTA’s needs subject to the frenzy of the annual Albany budget trough,” state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) said in statement.

“Derailing this important program at the last possible moment and asking the legislature to come up with an alternative funding mechanism in less than 48 hours is irresponsible and inconsistent with principles of good governance. That is why I oppose the IOU bailout,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris.

Many rank-and-file lawmakers expressed frustration about the IOU proposal, which they had not been able to read during a long Friday, and the congestion pricing chaos in general.

“It’s outrageous,” one assemblyman told The Post of being left in the dark about the bill.

“This is a false choice and a manufactured crisis,” said Assemblyman Tony Simone (D-Manhattan).

“This was a ridiculous last minute decision by the governor, and I’m a big fan of her and I still have hope that she’ll change her mind and again make another U-turn.”

The indefinite pause of congestion pricing also raised questions from many lawmakers about how much money had already been sunk in the program, including on license plate readers in Manhattan.

Sensing blood in the political waters, members of New York’s congressional House Republican delegation demanded Hochul and MTA boss Janno Lieber spell out how much had been spent on the scuttled congestion pricing scheme.

“This pause comes with a more than $500 million dollar contract already signed for equipment and installation, which now appears useless,” the letter drafted by Rep. Mike Lawler reads.

“There appears to be a colossal cost that has been run up for the development of this plan, only for it to be suddenly paused for what can only be viewed as political purposes.”

The NYC Independent Budget said Thursday the MTA allocated $427 million thus far.

Samuelsen, the MTA board member, wasn’t the only transit agency honcho scratching his head.

“This is one of the most unusual actions I’ve seen,” David Jones, another MTA board member told The Post about Hochul’s reversal on congestion pricing.

“There may be genius behind it. I haven’t seen it yet.”

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