As Election Day is finally, mercifully upon us and New Yorkers head to the polls to elect a whole bunch of newly ineffective state representatives, one issue near and dear to our transit-loving hearts could be in play. If the right people win election, the MTA’s payroll tax could be in jeopardy. This tax, passed as part of the 2009 funding plan, isn’t popular, and even Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo says he will reassess the tax if elected. GOP comptroller nominee Harry Wilson called it a “job-killing” tax, and Republicans running for state office may try to overturn it on the first day of the next legislative session in Albany.
Yet, as Judy Rife of the Times Herald-Record explored yesterday, the payroll tax is seemingly a necessary evil. Without it, the MTA would be facing a truly disastrous economic crisis as the authority’s budget would be another $1.3-$1.5 billion hole. “The payroll tax has proven to be crucially important to the MTA,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said to Rife. “Its existence prevented service cuts and fare (and toll) increases from being even worse, and it is reducing the funding gap in our five-year capital plan.”
Streetsblog’s Noah Kazis offered a race-by-race analysis of the payroll tax, and it’s clear that, while their constituents pay just 25 percent of the total tax revenue collected, suburban representatives are up in arms over the tax. Yet, no one has proposed an adequate way to fund transit. Be it congestion pricing, East River Bridge tolls or another yet-to-be determined source of income, the state simply cannot do away with the payroll tax without replacing it and the billions it generates for the MTA.