Lhota open to ‘more equitable’ payroll tax replacementBy
The MTA and Dutchess County have a tenuous relationship at best. The local politicians rail against the MTA whenever it can, and one Poughkeepsie newspaper ran a factually incorrect and ideologically misguided editorial a few months ago calling for the MTA’s dissolution while repeating the tired two-sets-of-books trope. It isn’t friendly territory.
So yesterday, Joe Lhota, head of the MTA, spoke at a Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He offered up a full run-down of the benefits the MTA provides to the region and spoke at lenght about both the need for subsidies and how the MTA relies less on those subsidies than many similarly situated transit agencies.
For full coverage of his back-and-forth, check out Dana Rubinstein’s full report; Lhota says some interesting things about people who commute into the city and Metro-North’s relationship with the overall economic health of parts north of the city. I’m most concerned and intrigued by what he said of the payroll tax:
“I need to find a way … whatever happens with the payroll mobility tax, to find a substitute for it that’s more equitable and more fair,” said Lhota. “But one thing you should know, is that the money … coming from the payroll mobility tax is not going to New York City. It’s actually going to the counties.
“But be that as it may, I will work with Senator Saland, I will work with the assemblymember, on trying to find ways to make the payroll mobility tax or its replacement more equitable,” he continued. “We do need the money. As I mentioned before, there’s no commuter railroad in the country that can work unsubsidized. So we need to find some form of subsidy that is more transparent, more direct, more equitable, than the payroll mobility tax.”
The payroll tax opposition never goes away. Even now, Long Island representatives are trying to whittle it away, but Lhota’s point is one that seems to go unheeded in Albany. The MTA cannot afford to lose the money from the payroll tax without an adequate replacement. Be that congestion pricing, tolling or other revenue streams, the money has to come from somewhere. Or else those upstate economies will suffer as services are lost. I’ll leave it to you to define “more equitable.”