MTA hoping for federal funds
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will vote Wednesday on a budget for the massive agency.
But it’s possible that the budget that comes before the board won’t look anything like the doomsday scenarios initially discussed last month, which included massive service cuts and thousands of layoffs.
Sources told The Point that there may be additional options presented Wednesday that were not offered previously.
"There is no option that ultimately, in the absence of federal aid, would avoid pain," one MTA source said.
But recent comments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer might have given the MTA a bit of hope, and it’s possible that the MTA board could be asked to approve a budget that includes federal funds — even if a relief package hasn’t been finalized yet.
Schumer told The Daily News on Sunday that he expected the MTA could get $4 billion in the stimulus package that Senate Democrats are negotiating.
Schumer’s comments were made during a ride on a New York City bus, and a source close to the senator said that was purposeful. The bus ride, the source noted, was an effort to appeal to rural America, where transit funding would be linked more to buses than underground subway systems.
"I am hard at work trying to deliver a second $4 billion dollars for the MTA to keep the system flowing, workers working, riders riding and the economy running," Schumer said in a statement on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi invited the congressional leadership, including Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to a meeting to try to reach an agreement.
If the MTA board does vote on a budget with federal funding in the vicinity of the $4 billion Schumer has suggested, but the federal government doesn’t ultimately come through, then the MTA board likely would have to come back in January to revisit the plans for cuts and layoffs.
Despite the possibility the MTA might avoid the draconian measures officials have been discussing, the Long Island Rail Road may see its share of service changes come next year, not necessarily because of the budget, but rather because of the enormous reduction in ridership, particularly on weekend service on less-used branches, sources said.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
A journey for immigration reform
Activists from Make the Road Action, CASA in Action, and other allied groups converged on Delaware on Tuesday to get in Joe Biden’s head as he plans out his first 100 days.
At a news conference in Wilmington, the president-elect’s hometown, the advocates discussed immigration, criminal justice reform, and the fate of Puerto Rico. Fifteen Long Islanders were among those who made the drive down I-95, according to a Make the Road Action spokesman. All drove cars — no buses due to the pandemic — and will be heading back home this evening.
The issues highlighted by the activists in Wilmington shed light on some of the priorities for immigrant advocacy groups coming out of four years under President Donald Trump, the next step beyond the current tussling over cabinet appointments. They include asking Biden to "issue a moratorium on deportations, and advance a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people across the country," as well as advancing "immediate measures to repair the harm from the ‘94 crime bill," and canceling Puerto Rico’s debt.
Just ahead of the news conference, the activists released a letter they said Biden sent to them that praised their role in protesting the Trump administration and offered an open door, though no specifics, in the policy battles to come.
"Please know you will always have a seat at the table," the letter from the president-elect said. "I welcome your advice and I am ready to partner with you in the weeks, months and years ahead."
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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How does political polling come back from the dead?
Political junkies who type "polling for" into the Google search engine have a good chance of getting as their top autofill suggestions "Georgia Senate race," a sign of how critical those two seats will be to governing in Washington for the next few years. The likely news stories resulting from that search will show a horse race that is very close — but do you believe any of it? One of the lessons of the 2020 election is to be skeptical of polling and forecasting models.
If you are interested in where the industry goes from here, consider taking a break from checking updates on the pending Snowmageddon and join a virtual event Tuesday night hosted by the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. Former Long Island Congressman Steve Israel and CNN commentator S.E. Cupp will moderate the one-hour discussion on what is broken and how it can be fixed.
Joining them will be two leading pollsters, Jefrey Pollock, head of Global Strategy Group, which represents many top-drawer Democrats as clients, and Brenda Gianiny, a founding principal of Axis Research, who most recently worked with Senate GOP leadership and House incumbents.
—Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli