LIers brace for hikes as MTA passes doomsday budget

Long Island commuters are voicing their disapproval Wednesday over the passage of the MTA's so-called doomsday budget.
With just one dissenting member, the MTA board, headed by Elliot ?Lee? Sander, voted to erase its anticipated deficit of $1.2 billion with a 23 percent fare and toll hike and $177 million in annual service cuts.
MTA officials say it's necessary to raise fares and toll revenues by 23 percent in order to plug a budget gap that has grown worse during the global financial crisis. The MTA also wants to impose tolls on the East River bridges that are currently free. In addition to hikes, the MTA is calling for service cuts, which could affect the West Hempstead branch and the Port Washington line.
Charles Edwards, of West Hempstead, says cuts to weekend service in West Hempstead are a problem because trains to the station are already limited. He says he is not happy with having to pay more for less service.
Protesters voiced their opposition at a meeting in Manhattan Wednesday. One even held up a shoe, alluding to Monday?s incident in which an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes President George W. Bush, and said ?And Lee Sander, this shoe is for you!?
Long Island's MTA board member Mitch Pally says it was a sad day for commuters. "It is unacceptable,? Pally says. ?It is ill-timed, it is unwarranted and it's not appropriate for a city and a region of this caliber to do this to its mass transit system and its riders."
Details of the hikes and cuts won't be finalized until early next year and a fare hike would not go into effect until at least April 1. MTA board members also say they are still hoping for a bailout from Albany or Washington.
Click for more on which LIRR trains would be affected
MTAunveils budget with big service cuts, fare hikesMTAlooks for ways to plug $1.2B hole in the budgetPanelto examine MTA, LIRR money problems