Feb
06

Proposing a suburban tit-for-tat with the payroll tax

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When state Republicans won a partial repeal of the MTA-supporting payroll mobility tax in December based on some vague promise to “replace” the lost $320 million that should go to the authority’s coffers, I warned of the dangers of budging. By relenting even a little without identifying another source of dedicated funding, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his allies in Albany signalled a willingness to give, and opponents of the tax were likely to demand an even greater repeal. Now, that prediction is becoming a reality.

In Brookhaven, New York, yesterday, noted payroll tax opposition leaders Senator Lee Zeldin and Assemblyman Dean Murray called upon the state to fully repeal the payroll tax for “all counties, towns and villages outside of New York City.” The new measure — essentially similar to an effort last year that did not survive Sheldon Silver’s assembly — would eliminate the tax as it is levied on municipalities with large payrolls and libraries around the area. In essence, state representatives want the state to stop levying taxes on its own governmental subdivisions.

Using the same tiresome and ill-informed rhetoric that led this coalition to proclaim victory in December for what should be viewed as a defeat, the politicians spoke at length about the need to save our small municipalities for the taxation evil that is the PMT. we are taking the next step with the Martins-Zeldin bills to exempt all municipalities outside New York City, as well as all libraries throughout the MTA region. Assemblyman Murray and I are working hard with our Senate and Assembly colleagues to even further eliminate this ill-conceived tax on jobs,” Senator Lee Zeldin said.

Martin, the Assembly sponsor, spoke to similar talking points. “Last year, we were able to repeal the MTA payroll tax for roughly 80 percent of businesses. Unfortunately, this hidden tax still hurts far too many organizations, including libraries, local governments and municipalities. It’s a job killer and the legislation Senator Martins, Senator Zeldin and I are proposing will finally rid our job creators and communities of this onerous tax,” he said.

Meanwhile, local officials too decried the bill. “The repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax for counties, other municipalities and medium to large size businesses will serve as an economic boost for the Suffolk County economy and our region,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. Somehow, some way, the leader of Suffolk County believes that defunded transit — the thing that makes his area economically viable with New York City so nearby — will help boost his county’s economy. It defies reason.

So I have a proposal for Lee Zeldin, Dean Murray, Steve Bellone and the others who stand behind them: For every dollar they earn back by repealing the Payroll Mobility Tax, the MTA shall cut Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road service by an equal amount. If they want New York City to bear the funding burden for suburban rail — as it already does to a far greater extent than they believe — then let’s cut their service.

In a way, this is a self-defeating proposal. Cutting LIRR and Metro-North service will serve only to weaken, and not strengthen, the New York economy. That, however, is a point lost to these gentlemen, ostensibly elected to serve their constituent’s interests. As with national plans to defund transit investment, this move reeks of political folly, and only when it is too late — when the MTA must slash service and spike fares beyond an acceptable level — will voters realize that these politicians are doing them no favors.

It may cost taxpayer money to subsidize transit, but suburban counties will not be desirable destinations without its train access to the heart of the region’s job centers. Defunding that service, repealing a key source of revenue without finding a steady replacement, harms everyone, more so than the payroll tax ever will.



Categories : MTA Politics

25 Responses to “Proposing a suburban tit-for-tat with the payroll tax”

  1. Almost! Every dollar they cut from the payroll tax they have to make up by raising parking fees at commuter rail stations, at least until they get to the market-clearing price.

  2. Alex C says:

    Nothing like suburban self-entitlement. “Why how dare you suggest we pay for our service?! Those peasants in the City should subsidize us!”
    Pathetic.

  3. Chris says:

    I like the proposal though it seems clear that raising fares, rather than cutting service, is the ideal response. As you say, cutting service weakens the economy broadly, reducing production and demand. On the other hand raising fares (assuming 1-for-1 dollars with the elimination of the payroll tax) has primarily distributional effects, moving money from transit users to wage earners.

  4. Bolwerk says:

    I dunno. I agree that the suburbanites should stop expecting the city to be their sugar daddy, but we need to take a step back here too. If any change is going to happen, the legislature needs to take a hard line against the featherbedding that makes the MTA so expensive to begin with – or give the city the power to do it, IMHO. $14 dollar round trips are hardly unusual on MNRR or LIRR. Similarly, TWU labor costs need to be brought under control.

    Naturally, the suburban pols have no credibility complaining about the payroll tax because they’re a huge part of the wrench in the system, and the suburban railroads they depend on probably need the payroll tax more than the city does. But we in the city actually could credibly complain about it, and our pols should be clamoring to make it obsolete by pushing CP, bridge tolls, and efficiency improvements.

    • Alex C says:

      Agreed 100%. With the new cashless toll system now proving itself, no excuse to not implement it on all crossings and collect more money that way. I’d also like to propose just making the fare $2.50 already. A single ride costs $2.50 anyways and it will make putting money on a MetroCard simpler, with $5 paying for 2 fares and $10 for 4.

  5. R. Graham says:

    The MTA WOULD and I repeat WOULD do such a thing such as raising fares 1 for 1 for every dollar the state pulls back, but as a result half the board would be gutted before they could pull their guns out of their holsters in the MTA vs State government showdown.

    This is why I dislike the existence of the MTA. The concept is great but it requires a shared responsibility from all regional and state governments that the rail lines and buses touch. That ended in the 90s. Now the politicians have learned how to use the MTA as their scapegoat. Fare goes up, politician screams “This is an outrage!” “Audit your books!” But behind closed doors that same politician is saying to the board: “Raise the fares because I have no funding to give you for as far as the eye can see.”

    Maybe I shouldn’t dislike the MTA, but I hate hypocrites!!!!

  6. Larry Littlefield says:

    Now, does anyone hear any city legislator demanding that the Long Island Railroad cover as high a share of its costs as the subway? No.

    Because NYC’s legislators are the rearguard left behind to defend the interests of those who wrecked NYC in the 1970s and are still sucking on it today.

    If anything they represent the public unions and the retired, and the public union members live in the suburbs.

  7. Al D says:

    Let ‘em repeal the tax, and as you say, cut the service accordingly. This will only further exacerbate the flight of young people to the city center! Many parts of LI have already lost their ‘pristine’ appeal. It’s pretty clear that LI’ers (they did elect these people after all) have no interest in transit. See also LI Bus…

    • pea-jay says:

      Speaking of LI Bus how is that working out? Wasnt it supposed to be privated at this point?

      • Alex C says:

        It is. And they got off to a great start. Google “NICE bus woman wheelchair” and see the brilliance. At the press demonstration of a wheelchair ramp being used they put the ramp down onto the damn tarmac…too steep an angle and the woman on the wheelchair fell backwards and hit her head. And all the cameras saw it. Also, they’re having slight issues with maintenance and buses actually showing up. Other than that, it’s great!

        • Nathanael says:

          Good God; that’s a fairly horrifying press conference!

          They hired Veolia, a.k.a. “Chatsworth Crash” — worst reputation in the business, worldwide. This is going to be an unmitigated disaster. I wonder what happens when they discover that ridership drops like a stone while costs go way up?

  8. digamma says:

    They should raise fares to cover the shortfall but institute a steep discount for city residents. If you have a credit card billed to a city ZIP code, order Metrocards or tickets in the mail to a city address, or pay cash in a station and can show proof of residence, you get the discount.

  9. Hank says:

    I wonder what it would do to NYC schools if we followed your suggestion and cut service / raised fares on the commuter railroads to make up for the loss of the payroll tax?
    Sigh, another free-rider problem… I honestly wish that everytime anyone ever got on a public road in a car, they had to pay a toll. Would force a much more rational debate on the subject.

    • Duke says:

      Well, they do (gas tax), but since that’s hidden in the price of gas people aren’t conscious of paying it.

      • Hank says:

        Any breakdown on gas tax vs. total highway infrastructure spending?

        highly controversail personal opinion ahead-
        Also, we should triple the gas tax (and earmark more of it to mass transit) to encourage more fuel efficient vehicles, better encourage mass transit utilization, and fight pollution

      • Nathanael says:

        One problem is that the gas tax doesn’t actually pay *anything* for repairs or maintenance of local roads, so there’s still a massive misallocation of costs, even among car drivers.

  10. Matthias says:

    Let’s just rename the tax the “Freedom Fund”. A vote to repeal it is a vote against America.

  11. Frank B. says:

    About time. I’ve been saying for years that these goons should be thankful that they have an attractive metropolitan area that makes their counties more viable to live in.

    I’m personally very annoyed the MTA decided to honor Metrocard transfers from the new NICE (Former Long Island Bus) system. Let them pay twice! They’ve decided to go with Veolia Transportation; the MTA doesn’t owe Long Island a single thing. If Long Islanders are going to bypass $7 LIRR fares by riding the bus to the subways in Flushing and Jamaica (And there are 14 bus lines that serve subway stations directly) for $2.25, then they should have to pay at least $4.50. That really annoyed me. Their system should not cross-honor Veolia transit fares.

    Cut the Long Island Railroad and MetroNorth down to bare-bones service for these ungrateful suburban counties! (Except of course, for Connecticut, where the Conn. Department of Transportation actually pays a fair two-thirds share of the operating costs).

    Really, they’ve been getting a ‘free’ ride for far too long. We should toll the Long Island Expressway, as well as the Northern and Southern state parkways between the Queens/Nassau border as well. We can use the tolls to fund transit throughout the suburbs.

    • Alex C says:

      I support this 100%. Nassau owes the MTA millions for the years of freeloading they got on the MTA running their buses for chump change. The MTA owes Nassau nothing and doesn’t have to waste money being nice. Nassau county voted for it, let em have it.

  12. Chris G says:

    Not wanting to pay their fair share? Nassau County to a tee. Now it is spreading to these other areas.

    I hope these pols die a miserable death.

  13. All of the news regarding transit funding over the past month or so makes me so livid.

  14. Abbieprime says:

    The people you won’t hear agreeing with those politicans? Myself, and my fellow LIRR commuters. Despite the fact that we’re their constituents too, they are happy to throw us out with the bathwater. They are making moving into city limits more and more attractive every day.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Kabak: Cuts in Payroll Tax Should Be Matched by Reductions in Suburban Rail Service […]

  2. […] put forth some crazy ideas. A few days after one group of Long Island State Senators proposed a further repeal of the MTA payroll tax, another is protesting what is, in essence, better commuter rail service for New Yorkers from both […]

  3. […] Kabak: Cuts in Payroll Tax Should Be Matched by Reductions in Suburban Rail Service […]

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