With the chances for legislative approval of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal looking dim, Governor Spitzer and lawmakers are weighing a compromise that would fall short of the mayor's expectations but ensure that New York does not forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transportation funds, legislative sources said.
Mr. Spitzer and lawmakers are trying to determine if it is possible to satisfy the requirements of an anti-traffic grant program without signing off on the city's federal grant application that proposed charging daytime motorists a fee for driving into the busiest parts of Manhattan.
Sources say Mr. Spitzer, seeking to end a streak of Albany gridlock and strife, is pushing for full-blown approval of congestion pricing and is hoping to tack other big-ticket items on his agenda, including passage of a bill that would scale back the state's Wicks Law, a costly public construction mandate, and passage of an all-crimes DNA database.
Mr. Spitzer is also indicating to legislative leaders that he would grant them their first salary increase in more than nine years if they backed those items, and that he is no longer requiring that they approve his proposal to tighten campaign finance rules in order to win his approval for more pay.
With time running out to assure transportation officials that the state intends to implement the mayor's congestion pricing program, Mr. Spitzer and lawmakers are also weighing an alternative plan that would allow them to qualify for an estimated $500 million in federal funds without actually authorizing the city to implement congestion pricing.
Yesterday, the speaker of the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who has been critical of the mayor's plan, met separately with Mr. Spitzer and the Republican Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno.
Despite their recent war of words, Messrs. Bruno and Spitzer are both supportive of the congestion pricing plan, which would charge motorists $8 to drive into Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays and $4 to drive within the Manhattan charge zone.
The only holdout has been Mr. Silver, many of whose members representing districts outside Manhattan view congestion pricing as an unfair burden on middle-class commuters.
Mr. Bloomberg is aiming for lawmakers to approve the plan during a special session set for Monday, the day federal officials have set as a deadline for authorizing congestion pricing in order to qualify for transportation funds.
Albany leaders are hoping that passing a resolution expressing support for congestion pricing, without actually giving the city a go-ahead, would be enough to allow New York to remain in the running for a share of the $1.2 billion that the Transportation Department intends to distribute to five cities around the nation.
"I think he is at least amenable to legislation that would enable the city to proceed with a grant application to the federal government," Richard Gottfried, a Democratic assemblyman who represents the West Side of Manhattan, said of Mr. Silver.
"I think the question is: Is there some piece of legislation that could satisfy the federal government?" Mr. Gottfried said.
Messrs. Bloomberg and Bruno met with federal transportation officials in Washington yesterday to make a last-minute appeal for the plan.
Mr. Bloomberg told reporters that Monday's deadline is "a hard and fast date." A spokesman for the agency, Brian Turmail, said the deadline would not be moved and said the agency would refuse to accept anything less than full approval from the Legislature.
Also yesterday, supporters of Mr. Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan drew attention to Board of Election records showing that Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat of Westchester who has been a vocal critic of the proposal, has received at least $16,700 in political contributions from parking garage owners and associations, which have lobbied against the proposed road-use fees.
Mr. Brodsky said the group was trying to divert attention from a report he recently released claiming that low- and middle-income drivers would pay most of the congestion fees.