Since Albany approved a .34 percent payroll tax designed to fund the MTA’s budget gap, the State GOP has protested the tax at every turn. Take, for example, this short Newsday article. Alfonso Castillo reports:
Republican state lawmakers gathered Thursday with business owners and nonprofit groups to call for the MTA to repeal its recently enacted employer payroll tax…The tax was the foundation of a massive state bailout plan that pulled the Metropolitan Transportation Authority out of an unprecedented $1.8 billion operating budget deficit earlier this year.
“It’s an outrage that taxpayers are expected to carry this heavy burden on their backs in order to bailout the MTA,” said Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), who joined other members of the Senate’s Republican Long Island delegation at a rally in front of the Roosevelt offices of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County – one of many nonprofits hit by the tax.
Representatives from other organizations, including several public libraries and education centers, also blasted the tax, which will first be collected next month.
A few weeks ago, Jay Walder expressed his support for the payroll tax. It is, he said, “absolutely essential” for the future fiscal health of the MTA.
So on the one hand, we have anti-tax Republicans representatives, and on the other hand, we have pro-transit representatives who know that the MTA needs funding. At this point, the pro-transit crowd will win, but the payroll tax has created something of an untenable position for the MTA.
Somehow, transit has become a politicized venture in our city and country. Some politicians support pro-transit, pro-pedestrian measures while others are pro-car and anti-tax. The truth is that without transit, New York City would not be a functional urban center. Our streets could not handle the auto traffic that a sub-par transit system would generate, and businesses would lose time and money to inefficient transit.
Yet, still people protest fees, fares and taxes. At some point, the pro- and anti-transit forces will clash, and it will get ugly. For now, the payroll tax will stand, and the MTA will get its money. What happens when the capital plan comes up for budgeting and when the MTA next has to go, hat in hand to Albany, though may not be pretty. Unless a better funding solution arises, New York City will suffer for it.