Gang of Four proposes all sorts of fees


The Gang of Four have spoken. While rumors of a soda tax to help fund the MTA were swirling earlier today, the latest Senate financing plan for the MTA includes a series of surcharges, fees, fare hikes and taxes designed to close the transit agency’s budget gap.

The latest proposal, allegedly endorsed by the group of four state senators who refuse to endorse tolls, is an amalgamation of all of the proposed plans so far. It’s not clear how or even if it accomplish the goal of funding future MTA capital programs as the Ravitch Commission’s report did, and with payroll — and no exemptions for that tax — a centerpiece of the plan, it won’t have the support of the state G.O.P. either.

Jimmy Vielkind at Politcker NY had a rundown of the plan. According to Vielkind, the plan looks a little something like this:

  • A drop-off tax for taxis of either 50 cents or a dollar, depending upon how much is needed for upstate roads bridges.
  • A car registration surcharge.
  • A payroll tax, without exemption for school districts or non-profits.
  • A driver’s license surcharge.
  • The smaller fare hike proposed by the M.T.A.

So that’s that. The Democrats are willing to give some money to upstate roads while making cabs more expensive. That’s sure to go over well with Bhairavi Desai and the Taxi Workers Alliance. I hope the Democrats have shored up the support of upstate Democrats and at least some Republican if they’re willing to pork up this bill for upstate roads and bridges.

Meanwhile, this bill doesn’t do a terrible job of spreading the pain, but it targets the wrong people. By instituting a driver’s license surcharge, the state is penalizing people like me who have a license but rarely use it. They should be taxing the people who drive on unnecessarily free bridges and not those of us who want a government-issued identification card. It’s a fix that will impact far more people than the tolling plan and in worse ways.

Albany has taken a good idea and turned it into a bad one, but that’s the way New York State politics works. If there’s more on this bill today, I’ll have it. The plan should be written up by tomorrow, and then it’s just a matter of political support. Again.

Categories : Doomsday Budget

21 Responses to “Gang of Four proposes all sorts of fees”

  1. Chris says:

    Not to mention the car registration surcharge unfairly penalizes people who have no choice but to drive to work. If you live and work in places that are not served by public transit (for example, Suffolk County), you have no choice but to drive.

    One benefit of tolling the East River bridges is that the state is essentially penalizing people who choose to drive when efficient mass transit runs parallel to – and sometimes even on – these crossings.

    If the Fare Hike Four continue to make the argument that tolls are a regressive tax, they’re going to have an even harder time explaining this proposal.

  2. Rhywun says:

    Sorry… NYC taxi riders paying for upstate roads and bridges is unacceptable. Go back to the drawing board, guys. Nobody was asking upstate to pay for downstate’s infrastructure.

    Haven’t we been propping up that backwater for long enough? (And I can insult it all I want–I grew up in Rochester.)

    • Alon Levy says:

      It is unacceptable… but it’s not the same as the usual subsidies. New York City and its suburbs are richer places than Upstate, and the tax imbalance reflects that. Taxing taxi drivers to pay for Upstate roads is something different – it’s a political bribe. If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to run for office on a platform of instituting term limits and democratizing decision making.

      • rhywun says:

        Ha ha ha ha… term limits are great until you get a gullible council to overturn them. And as for NYC taxes… those ought to go to NYC needs. Our state taxes have been flowing upstream for decades… enough already.

  3. Jon says:

    The toll plan made no sense. You would pay the same toll for the Queensboro to get into midtown as you would the Broadway Bridge to get to Inwood. There is no logic to this, it is a “slap a tax on everything” plan. Plus there is the practical issue of collecting tolls on bridges where no physical space exists for toll booths. No one ever came up with a plan for that.

    As far as taxi fares paying for upstate roads, at least they are upfront about it for once. Upstaters will say their drivers license fees are paying for downstate projects.

    • How many different times do people have to say this? There was no need for physical space for tolls. There is a technology that exists everywhere except in the technologically-challenged city limits of NYC that allows for high-speed tolling. You wouldn’t even know you were getting tolled until the bill shows up.

      And anyway, what’s wrong with paying the same toll to cross the same water?

      • John says:

        Would that require ez-pass? What if someone didn’t want ez-pass, either because they don’t want big brother having a record of all their tolls, or they don’t cross the bridges much (or both)?

        • It’s a camera system. High-speed tolls take pictures of your license plate and then send you a bill. If that’s too Big Brother-y for your tastes, you can always go waste time in the cash-only lanes on the Triborough, Battery Tunnel or other toll booth crossing depending upon where you’re crossing into or out of Manhattan.

          • John says:

            I assume that’s only when ez-pass fails. No way they wouldn’t use ez-pass as the primary system – it would be insane to mail a bill to everyone who crosses the bridge. From what I’ve read about some other places this is in place, if you don’t have the ez-pass set up, you get mailed a fine, not a bill.

            • Think twice says:

              Bingo, just like red-light cameras. Mailing bills and collecting them would involve administrative costs so EZ-Pass discounts would definitely incentivize getting an EZ-Pass or going straight cash as Ben mentioned.

    • Alon Levy says:

      No one ever came up with a plan for that.

      Except the Singaporean government.

      • No need to go that, Alon. This technology exists and is on place on the New Jersey Turnpike near the Meadowlands right outside of NYC. People who can’t understand this are either brainwashed by the anti-toll crowd or intentionally dense. It’s getting infuriating.

    • Duke87 says:

      There is something to be said for crossing into Inwood being different than crossing into midtown. Which is why the congestion pricing plan using 60th street as the demarcation line was better.

      Although, you tell me, which of these makes less sense?
      1) having the same toll on the Broadway Bridge as the Queensboro.
      2) having a toll on the Midtown Tunnel while the Queensboro bridge right next to it is free.

    • rhywun says:

      My understanding was that the driving fees would apply to the 12-county MTA region only. Or?

      It doesn’t really say, which tells me that the plan isn’t particularly well thought-out. It’s fun now that we’re mixing upstate and downstate needs, isn’t it. Let the games continue.

    • Think twice says:

      “…the practical issue of collecting tolls on bridges where…”

      High Speed Tolling.

      “…it is a “slap a tax on everything” plan.”

      More like a “user fee”, which is what anti-tax fiscal conservatives prefer.

      “As far as taxi fares paying for upstate roads, at least they are upfront about it for once. Upstaters will say their drivers license fees are paying for downstate projects.”

      Even fairer would be for Upstaters to pay for their own road maintenance with toll roads using the selfsame high-speed tolls on Upstate roads.

    • Rochdalian says:

      Go for a ride on the Garden State Parkway, and check out the EZ Pass lanes. You’re going through the toll areas at pretty close to full speed.

  4. grzond says:

    As an upstate transplant in NYC I’m disgusted by the idea of taxi cabs in NYC paying for upstate bridges. Makes no goddamn sense. Just toll the bridges already.

  5. nyctaxiphoto says:

    Thanks for the post. I’ve been hearing lots of rumors of new programs and systems which will make it harder for taxi drivers to make money, this feels most likely to happen. And while i feel hurt by this proposal, I am not sure if we have any other option, since the republicans won’t accept tolls on the bridges and tunnels. Everything would’ve been perfect if they’d done that, but this is our only other choice.


  1. […] MTA is nearing its financial endgame. As the Senate prepares to vote next week on the latest MTA funding proposal, the transit authority is moving ahead under the reasonable assumption that the plan will not pass […]

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