Home Asides In the suburbs, an uphill battle to overturn the payroll tax

In the suburbs, an uphill battle to overturn the payroll tax

by Benjamin Kabak

As the summer has dragged on, an MTA payroll tax revolt has slowly developed in the suburban counties that ring New York City. Nassau County has filed a suit to overturn the tax, and the future of the levy has become a campaign issue in some of the far-reaching areas that see only minimal MTA service. Even though Gov. David Paterson shifted the bulk of the tax burden to New York City denizens, these suburban dwellers want their transit service but not the costs associated with it.

In The Wall Street Journal today, Andrew Grossman offers up an overview of the tax revolt. He reports that Suffolk County will file a brief in support of Nassau County’s lawsuit but also stresses how the payroll tax now accounts for $1.3-$1.5 billion of the MTA’s $12 billion budget. Without it, the MTA is sunk. “It was either that or let them raise fares 35 or 40%, cut service dramatically,” Jim LaCarrubba, campaign manager to payroll tax supporter Sen. Brian Foley, said. “To just say you don’t like it and have no solution on how to fix the problems, it’s not being genuine to the public.”

Republican challengers such as Lee Zeldin highlight the flaws in the opposition’s argument. He though claims the MTA could save $1.3 billion simply by cutting administrative costs and raising fares, but a fare hike to cover such a great deficit would be in excess of 25 percent. Other State Senate hopefuls are more willing to consider East River bridge tolls, but most simply want other people to pay for their services. “Out here on the East End of Long Island people rely a lot less on” the LIRR, Zeldin said. “That’s why there’s so much resentment.” The challenges to the payroll tax, as Grossman reports, have very slim chances of legal success.

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SEAN August 18, 2010 - 4:20 pm

Quite often I come across the arguement in the Journal News that goes something like “well if I don’t use public transportation, then I shouldn’t be forced to subsidise it with my tax dollars!” Yet as a transit user, I’m subsidising the commuter who drives. These people often believe that roads are or should be free including there parking spaces. They are also of the mistaken belief that roads are not subsidised, wich they are.

Something else I’ve noticed is that that atitude has become more pervasive since the T party started comeing out of the woodwork last year.

IanM August 18, 2010 - 5:30 pm

More broadly, the whole idea that one shouldn’t have to pay taxes for public services they don’t happen to use is completely idiotic. By that logic, I could object to paying any taxes that end up funding public education because I don’t happen to have kids. Or ones that support cancer research because I don’t have cancer. At least not right now. And I sure as hell shouldn’t have to pay for medicare or medicaid, because, you know, I’m not old or poor.

Someone needs to explain that the whole reason taxes and public services (our whole system of government, even?) exist is because we feel that doing things like educating people, keeping them alive, and making it possible for them to get around are good for society as a whole. Keeping the NYC region’s transit running is vital for the state, the metro area, probably the whole country. So it’s everyone’s responsibility.

SEAN August 18, 2010 - 7:40 pm

Correct on all points.

Christopher August 20, 2010 - 12:15 am

Not to mention the very fact that there is a transit system adds capacity to roads without having to pave over all of Long Island.

Bolwerk August 18, 2010 - 5:35 pm

Try pointing out that people in NYC pay more for the services of outsiders, including roads, than outsiders ever pay for the transit services in NYC. It gets you some funny looks. The best part is it’s true!


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